A Mass Murder in My Town, and the Need to Reconsider Gun Restrictions

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Tonight I write about the mass murder that happened in my city, Virginia Beach. It is now my adopted home, I’ll retire from the Navy next year and stay here. Judy and I kind of live the live that Neil Diamond sand of in his classic I am I Said, which is about a man struggling to find home between two coasts:

But nowadays, I’m lost between two shores

L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home, New York’s home, But it ain’t mine no more…

For us the West Coast was home, we grew up there. We imagined that when I retired from the Navy we would go back to California, but after nearly four decades in the military we have found the closest thing we will have to home in Virginia Beach. Actually, it’s more like what Noel Diamond described, Virginia Beach is fine, but it’s not home, Stockton’s home, but it ain’t mine no more.

When Judy and I were dating we were held up at gunpoint with her parents in Stockton, after I left the active duty Army to go to seminary the elementary school my brother and I attended and Judy had her first job at was the target of one of the first mass school yard attacks. Stockton has long had a problem with violent crimes, Virginia Beach and other areas of Hampton Roads have their fair share of violence but we generally feel safe.

I have also been shot at in combat during my Iraq deployment, and as an unarmed Chaplain had to rely on others to protect me.

Of course because of my PTSD I am hyper vigilant, wherever I go I have a plan if a shooter was to enter a place I am at. I plan in advance what I will do if someone starts shooting.

What happened in Virginia Beach yesterday shocked us, these things don’t happen here, at least they didn’t. The victims were about to start their weekend, they were killed by a coworker, who many had known for years. The victims were a mix of races and genders, much like the neighborhood I live in. One thing about Virginia Beach is that many neighborhoods are mixed race middle class neighborhoods in which many residents are military veterans or retirees. Of course there are other neighborhoods exclusive areas of rich white privilege, and old money long time residents whose roots go back hundreds of years, but there is not the racial tension I have felt in other places I have lived.

All of the people killed were part of this community, I didn’t know any of them but the crime has increased my hyper vigilance, but I digress…

The more important thing is a series of questions, and please note that I am not anti-gun ownership, so long that background checks are done, and civilians do not have access to military grade weapons and accessories that can turn a defensive weapon into a instrument of mass murder, as was the case here. The murderer used a .45 caliber pistol, of itself my preferred caliber of handgun for personal defense. I qualified as an expert on a combat pop up range with the M1911A1 .45 pistol while in the Army, something that I could never do with its successor, the M9 Beretta 9mm pistol, the pistol grip was all wrong and anyone worth his salt knows that the grip makes all the difference.

Likewise, I plan on purchasing .22 caliber bolt action carbines for Judy and I to take to target ranges. As far as home defense I want a fully automatic paint gun rifle should someone break into our house. A massive number of hits from such a weapon on an assailant without protective gear would temporarily cripple them and if they tried to flee would make them stand out to the police, without killing them, as much as I might want.

But I have questions:

Why do civilians have access to military grade automatic weapons whose only use is to kill other human beings?

Why are extended ammunition clips allowed to be sold to civilians? Honestly, what is the need. If someone can’t defend themselves with a 9 or 11 round magazine in a semi-automatic pistol, or even a 10 round magazine for an AR-15 class weapon why should they have access to massive magazines which are only used for offensive purposes?

Why are silencers sold to civilians? These are tools of killers and assassins, not home defense.

Certainly this was not what the founders planned when they wrote the Second Amendment, which was designed to allow citizens to be armed and become part of a state authorized militia in a time when the standing Army was almost non-existent and the distrust of standing armies was rampant. But the late Big Tony Scalia completely overturned the original meaning of the Second Amendment which all previous courts had decided in the understanding of Second Amendment. Scalia simply that the clause regarding a well organized militia had no bearing, and the majority for which he wrote in District Of Columbia v. Heller opened the floodgates to the gun apocalypse we are seeing day after day.

Yesterday’s killing wasn’t directed at any particular religious or racial group, it was the work of a disturbed man who decided to kill coworkers he had known for years, using a weapon and accessories designed to kill large numbers of people using the surprise of silence to ensure he killed as many people as possible.

It is high time that we as Americans stand up against laws that enable mass murderers to do their work, and instead fight to overturn the Scalia interpretation of the Second Amendment and return the nation to a sane interpretation of gun rights, because our current system is insane. It allows people to weapons and accessories that are only suitable for mass murder.

Virginia Beach police killed the murderer after an extended gun battle, in which one was wounded and his life saved by his body armor.

It is time to change the laws that enable people like this killer to conduct their massacres. It is called sensible gun laws and regulation. It is not about banning guns, but interpreting the Second Amendment as the founders intended and banning weapons and accessories which only serve to kill other citizens without regard to any other law or morality.

So, at risk of pissing off a lot of people, I wish you a good nigh, or a sleepless and unsettled one if you support laws that allowed this killer and others to obtain the weapons they needed to commit the mass murders which they are responsible for, and the rest of us sit back as bystanders.

Please remember, the victims were not just numbers or names, but real people, with real families and friends who contributed to their communities. They leave behind husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, grandchildren and friends. It is tie for all of us to wake up and stop worshipping the cult of the gun.


Padre Steve+

Note: Article updated to replace the word clip or clips with magazines when a critic questioned my qualifications to discuss weapons, and my military service, even though I used the word magazines later in the paragraph. This is a common tactic among people who want no restrictions on guns. They attack your character and qualification to write such things. Standard NRA talk.


Filed under Political Commentary

25 responses to “A Mass Murder in My Town, and the Need to Reconsider Gun Restrictions

  1. David W.Harris

    I used to be a Firearms Certificate holder from 1981 until all hand guns and most other types of firearm were criminalised in Britain. A man who had a firearms cert renewal denied by his area police force appealed through his member of Parliament and the police were over ruled. He subsequently entered an infant school and murdered most of a class of 6/7 year old children and their teacher and another teacher who tried to help. This is the only ever example of such a crime in Great Britain. The Labour Government which had over ruled the police wasted no time in pushing a Bill through Parliament which confiscated all hand guns, shotguns with a capacity of more than 3 rounds and all self loading weapons of any sort. The payment of compensation took over two years and the confiscation was actually illegal under British Law but legality has never bothered ‘ lefties ‘ . The result is that many of us who are responsible law abiding people lost a sport and lost money as the compensation assessment was more of a money saving exercise than a compensation system. The real result is that only criminals have relatively free access to firearms and the incidence of shootings has multiplied exponentially. Although I would describe myself as a Palmerstone Liberal it is irrefutably true that the vast majority of firearm cert holders would be Conservative voters and the real reason for the confiscation of guns was that is was another means to punish those seen as the natural enemies of the Labour Party, the same party that criminalised fox hunting but has never spoken against the sport of fishing which is largely the resort of Labour Party supporters with the exception of the expensive forms of fishing which are largely enjoyed by the wealthy and well off. You might have heard the expression, ‘ the huntin,fishing and shootin crowd’ .
    Sadly British politics is governed by vested interests and class hatred. Regards, DWH

    • padresteve

      Your Parliament went way over the top in doing this. I only think that military grade weapons, and devices, like extended magazines, and silences used to increase the lethality of otherwise perfectly acceptable weapons should be more closely regulated.

      I disagreed with what your Parliament did back then, and still do. It penalized too many law abiding people.

  2. David W.Harris

    Further to the above. I used to have a Colt 45 which was bought new and had the usual gritty Colt trigger action but was a super gun which I enjoyed shooting. I think your posted remarks are balanced and I could not fail to support such thinking were I an American citizen. What a pity you were not a Labour Government advisor….I might still be shooting my 80 series Colt legally and without harm to anyone. Regards DWH

  3. I agree with you totally. I don’t know how anyone could shoot another person. I used to hunt, I had trouble shooting the deer. I had to tell myself, this is meat for your freezer, meat to feed your son. Also … I admit this … I didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of the men. But it was never easy squeezing that trigger.

    I sold all my guns a few years ago. I want nothing to do with any firearms at all anymore.

  4. D. Eckhardt

    The minute you used the word clip instead of magazine which is correct, you lost me. Why? Simple you may or may not have qualified expert, heck if you had that much training you would never have made such a simple mistake. So I call BS on the premise of your qualifications to speak from authority. It also calls into question your other stories. I would hope the part about being a Pastor is true. If so you know your job is to administer God’s grace to our warfighters. They count on that and should be confident in your ability to do so. As for your questions about what weapons should be available to civilians, I would point you to the writings of the framers of the Bill of Rights. You will be enlightened.

    • padresteve

      The last time I qualified was as a line officer in the 80’s. I was very good with a .45. In 1992 I became a Chaplain and am not allowed to carry, though when in assigned in units such as National Guard Combat Engineers, Light Infantry, USMC FMF, Security Forces, Navy EOD, and in pre-deployment training for Iraq I always familiarized just in case.

      As for my use of clip rather than magazine you are just being a pain in the ass and trying to discredit me.

      I still serve as a Navy Commander, Chaplain. I served 17 1/2 years in the Army, ARNG, and USAR before taking off my Major’s Oak leaf to enter the Navy in February 1999. I have multiple combat deployments, and to boot I’m a graduate of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College (2005) and the Joint and Combined Warfighting School (2013) where I continued on for the next 3 1/2 years as an instructor and later assistant professor. In addition to my theology degrees I am a historian, and have a Masters in Military History.

      You have questioned my honor, my integrity, and my experience for the sake of using “clip” rather than “magazine” in a rather emotional article.

      You also misread the intention of the Framers in the Second Amendment, and have to be ignorant of the history of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, I’ll say that as a historian.

      So go on your way and leave me alone. I’m sure you can fight someone else to bother.

    • Mr M

      Your logical fallacy is fallacy fallacy.

      Hesus Cripes you ‘enthusiasts’ and your nitpicking/narrow definitions trying to discount someones point of view. It’s a flash suppressor, no it’s a flash hider, no it’s a muzzle brake, blah blah effin blah. What would Jesus call it?

      A clip feeds an internal magazine. You get the point, but you use your to obscure his point.

      • Steven

        I wish I could be this succinct! I seem to be forever beginning at the beginning! Do you ever wonder how some one can care so passionately about something, and yet have no depth of understanding about it? How could you care about private gun ownership and be reduced to being piss- about whether something is a magazine or a clip? As if that matters to the core issues!?

        Nice post.

      • padresteve

        I know, it defies my imagination.

  5. D. Eckhardt

    You have the right to be wrong. I misread nothing. You are mixing religion with civil government. Have a good day.

    • padresteve

      You are a moron, I am a Navy Chaplain, I am 100% Naval Officer, and 100% Clergy at the same time. I support the Constitution and our Founding Principles, one of which is the First Amendment, my religious speech is as protected as your gun rights. I support the religious rights of people that I disagree. If you had served in the military you might understand that, but when I see you quoting a man who wants convicted war criminals pardoned, I lose all respect. Toodles…

    • padresteve

      One more thing, this article didn’t mix politics and religion, I do not want and do not support theocracy. I am as secular as any clergy can be.

  6. Steven

    OK…whoa to D. Eckhardt AND to Padre Steve.

    Civil discourse does not include personal invective nor personal pejoratives.

    @D. Eckhardt…you addressed none of Padre Steve’s points; you formed no argument supporting any stated position, nor did you direct your commentary to the positions Padre Steve took in his post. You spent your post berating him and denigrating him. That serves no purpose. If you believe that the Founders did, indeed, intend that private citizens should have access to weapons without restriction, it is on you to explain why and how you reach that conclusion.

    Padre Steve is as much a citizen as you are; all citizens have the right to hold views and to give expression to those views—no power or authority appointed you arbiter of right and wrong, except insofar as your own views are concerned. That he employed the common slang “clip”—a term which derives from the first magazine rifles, which were loaded by a clip, and which has long been in use by soldiers everywhere, is neither here nor there; it has no bearing on his argument, and in no way supports your presumptive argument—you dwelt so long on Padre Steve’s use of a single term that you failed to actually develop your own argument, and I have no real idea what it is beyond what I presume.

    Also, I admonish you for calling into question Padre Steve’s duty to his God and his soldiers. That is not for you to speak to, as you very well know.

    @Padre Steve. You lost your temper and allowed yourself to be distracted by D. Eckhardt’s window-dressing. Instead of calming yourself and sticking to the argument in hand—to the benefit of others, if not to D. Eckhardt—you got into a pissing contest. As a result, you both are going to the Headmaster’s Office as grown men.

    And I remind you that you are the Christian Padre. It is a burden you choose. Apart from your justifiable wrath over D. Eckhardt’s unacceptable jibes concerning your soldiers, you have Christ’s example to follow. You not only didn’t turn your cheek, Padre, you whalloped the poor guy.

    And I admonish you for calling D. Eckhardt names. That is unworthy, and it is falling short of your own expectations for yourself.

    To the argument: The Bill of Rights is a counter-weight to the government’s responsibility to provide for the common good; that is, it is meant to force the government to act judiciously and circumspectly when impairing personal liberties. Yet, it is not inalienable, nor was it intended to be so. No freedom is absolute; all must be balanced against the government’s duty to provide for the common weal.

    Thus, if one interprets the right to “keep and bear arms” as being an individual right to own weapons and carry them on one’s person in public spaces, one must accept that the exercise of that freedom carries with it a risk to the common weal—should a person having no quarrel with a private keeper and bearer of arms be killed by that K&BoA, that K&BoA has most assuredly infringed the inalienable rights set out in the foundational documents of our Republic of the person without quarrel.

    The contest between those inalienable rights and the rights set forth in the Bill of Rights has always been weighted in favour of the former.

    The two are therefore in tension, and the right to enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness infers a duty of the State to assure the common weal by the maintenance of law and order, just as the Bill of Rights enumerates specific instances where the maintenance of law and order may not be employed without great care and prudence.

    We require a license to drive a motor vehicle or fly an aircraft. We require security clearances to work on certain projects, even when the work is not directly involved with a sensitive matter. We require hunting and fishing licenses. We require automobiles to be inspected and insured. Some of these—Hunting and Fishing licenses come to mind—are really just a means to acquire revenue for the state outside of direct taxation. But some—driving licenses and pilot’s licenses—very definitely serve the common weal.

    I believe the assertion that gun ownership is an absolute and inalienable right is insupportable. Therefore, regulation is now and must continue to be associated with that right. Clearly, extent regulation is insufficient to protect the common weal: one school shooting in a decade would concern me, but three in a single year is insupportable. Add to that the mass shootings in Las Vegas, Florida, California, and Virginia (the short list), and you have the dimensions of a catastrophe. The common weal is clearly endangered by private citizen gun ownership as presently constituted.

    Steps must be take to ensure that my ownership and carrying of my Mauser Broomhandle does not pose a direct and palpable risk to the common weal. Therefore, before I can pick up my newly-purchased firearm, or acquire a Tax Stamp for a legal suppressor, I will have to wait for my background check to complete, and the Local, State, and Federal Governments will have to work together to ensure that a system capable of protecting the common weal without unduly impairing the right to keep and bear arms AS WE PRESENTLY UNDERSTAND IT.

    That will mean waiting for background checks to come back, AND not using the check as an opportunity to do other law enforcement or civil administrative work. That will mean reverting the law on suppressors to require a Tax Stamp for their ownership; and implementing a system to license all firearms.

    Successive mass shootings have to stop, without regard to whether the killers popped a clip or changed magazines; whether or not they voted Party D or Party R or voted at all. But private gun ownership cannot be prohibited (without a Constitutional Amendment, anyway), and it seems clear to me that which rifle I want to buy is a legitimately private decision, provided I am prepared to be responsible for the weapon.

    It is worth remembering that no felony has ever been committed with a legally owned fully-automatic weapon since the Federal Government acted to restrain the ownership of such weapons in the 1930s. Plenty of people own fully automatic weapons. They accept the burden of Federal oversight and Federal taxation in return for owning such weapons.

    That is the model that works. “Responsible gun owners” is no kind of solution. More laws that are not enforced or agencies that are underfunded are certainly not the model.

    But civil discourse is essential if we are to assure the common weal and protect our sacred rights.

    • padresteve

      Thank you Steve, but I was far more restrained than I wanted to be. I did hold back. This guy is a punk, and a bully. Goes back to childhood. I don’t do either well. But I appreciate your concern to warn me and I will take your advice. As for the other guy, I don’t think he will. I think that he will go on making salacious comments on other blogs. As for me I will ignore and trash anything else that he says without reply unless he decides to be decent.

      • Steven

        Hey Padre,

        I agree with you, but I try—not always successfully—to remember that others are reading our comments, not just the Eckhardt’s of the Internet. I try to answer even people like Eckhardt for those who may feel trapped by the equally unpalatable choices presented by extremists like him: EITHER mass murders become commonplace; OR the government will take away all guns. It isn’t that simple, and there’s no reason to present it as that simple.

        And I believe that even Mr. Eckhardt would prefer the use of a bit of slang to seeing the mass killings of civilians outside a war zone become commonplace. For people like him, I believe, the refusal to argue honestly is a sort of “close-your-eyes-and-hide-under-the covers” reaction to a problem that strikes at the core of our Republic. I do happen to feel that the Founders, being Revolutionaries after all, believed that a Government must not be able to disarm its People—they feared lawlessness and disorder, but also tyranny. That’s a balance we still have to observe.

        Here’s hoping Eckhardt will return to the discussion with actual arguments, and not invective and slander. On that count we are in agreement—I don’t really need to hear more of that.

      • padresteve

        Steve, it certainly be good if he did. Unfortunately the polarization of hot issue policies means that there is little room for real discussion of issues, just name calling and invective. God help me if I ever write on abortion.

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  8. mass murderers, mostly white american males, have been occuring for several years. now it happens and in your back yard and NOW, ONLY NOW you want to reconsider guns. probably want to keep yours. and you probably willl only THINK about the problem because 2nd amendment and it was not your kids or your family.

    • padresteve

      If you knew me and read my blog for any time after mass shooting after mass shooting, done mostly by white males, (often with ties to White Power/ White Nationalist groups) you will see that I have been preaching this for years. So please, chill out. I didn’t just have an epiphany because it happened here.

      So please, before yelling at me get your facts straight and do so research about me. My stands on guns, race relations, and other hot button issues have gotten me credible death threats from Neo-Nazis that I had to report to the FBI.

      I wish you all the best,


      Padre Steve+

      • Steven

        You can actually check this for yourself by looking through the site at the Padre’s previous blogs. He’s pretty consistent in how he looks at things, and while he’s often willing to take a new look at something as circumstances change, his principles are consistent.

        He’s as human as the rest of us, mind you. But if you’d stop throwing accusations around and try reason, you’d find him far more receptive.

        He is a bit feisty for a Padre, though.

    • Steven

      Alright, let’s say that is correct. Let’s say that I am a poorly-informed citizen who only cares about the issues which have a direct impact upon my personal life.

      So what?

      How does your accusation move the issue? What does it contribute?

      Whatever the reason behind my offering of a solution—or of anyone’s offering of a solution—the facts are that mass shootings are becoming commonplace and they are executed by white males **mostly** using legally-obtained firearms and legally-obtained accessories in an illegal way.

      Regulatory measures—which is what are being discussed, not generic “laws” as you imply—are extremely effective in limiting access to [whatever] so long as they are funded and enforced. Thus my point about legally-owned fully-automatic weapons.

      The core issues are not the right to private gun ownership—the Padre and I are a bit apart there—but the overweening need of the gun lobby, which is the very definition of a Special Interest, to permit shadowy and quasi-legal avenues to circumvent regulatory measures: specifically, swap meets, flea markets, and gun shows, where it is possible to acquire parts which are illegal when assembled, but not when bought individually (the parts for modifying “unmodifiable” self-loading rifles) , or which are supposedly for one purpose, but really for another (such as a bump stocks).

      Tighter and more stringent regulation of private gun ownership is needed to insure the public weal. That will mean accurate and careful consideration of a very complicated range of issues—high-capacity magazines, self-loading rifles, sonic supressors, bayonet fittings, types of ammunition, reloading, inspection and certification, and so on.

      It requires more stringent and effective government oversight to drive a motor vehicle than to own a firearm in this country. That has to change.

      I love my firearms. I absolutely want to keep them. If you’re not crazy or a felon or a foreign national, I want you to keep yours, too. But I want to know you have them, and that you’re not a felon, or crazy, or suddenly going on a buying spree, or a foreign national, etc…

      And to know those things requires effective regulatory oversight. So I don’t get to pick up my 1990 Browning Hi-Power bought used at a gun shop until the background check completes. Period. Full Stop. No time period limit, no special exceptions for previous ownership, no nothing. Just the burden of good stewardship of the public weal.

      So, what are your thoughts?

      • padresteve

        I agree

      • padresteve

        BTW, had to block a few comments because they so nasty and sarcastic that I wouldn’t allow them or waste my time replying to them. I also had to give this commentator a gentle nudge. I did like your reply.

      • Steven

        I do not understand this need to name-call. Once it starts it’s so difficult to stop, and it does nothing to help communication…nor does it serve anyone’s point of view.

        Stick to the issues! I get passion. I understand conviction. One can be zealous and still be civil. When we start out with name-calling, the opportunity to find common ground is vastly reduced.

        Worse, if we go to nasty personal invective right away, our comments never even see the light of day, reducing our influence and negating our voice.

        Arrrgggghhhh. So frustrating.

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