Virginia shooter passed background check. America weighs in

Virginia shooter passed background check. America weighs in

The information is out there on the ghastly shooting in Moneta, Virginia on Wednesday, in which a CBS reporter and cameraman were killed by a disgruntled – long unstable – ex-employee.

But it does hurt to let it in.  The bare facts have been well reported:  the victims who were killed were Alison Parker, 24 (the reporter for affiliate WDBJ), and cameraman Adam Ward, 27.  Also shot in the attack was local woman Vicki Gardner, a representative of the Chamber of Commerce, who was being interviewed by Parker.  Gardner underwent surgery after the shooting and reportedly has a positive prognosis.

Our prayers must be lifted up for Ms. Gardner, and the family and friends of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, who have suffered such a terrible loss.

Attacker Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, shot his victims during the interview as it was being broadcast live.  He recorded himself shooting the three, then posted his video online before shooting himself in the head.  (I don’t do snuff porn, and won’t embed the video here.)

Flanagan worked for news stations under the name Bryce Williams – the name he used to contact WDBJ a few weeks ago about doing a story, although he was fired from the station two years ago.  As reported by numerous sources (e.g., Daily Mail link above), he was an unstable individual, considered by former employers to be a problem employee with apparent mental problems.  When he was fired from WDBJ in 2013, the station called police to escort him from the building, concerned about his reaction and volatility.

Readers will have heard by now about his 23-page manifesto, calling for a race war and citing the shootings in Charleston as a precipitating event for which he wanted revenge.  As noted in major media reporting, Flanagan was black, and gay.  He was reprimanded on one occasion for doing election coverage on-air while wearing an Obama campaign sticker.

Vester L. Flanagan, reporting for WDBJ as Bryce Williams. (Image via WDBJ)
Vester L. Flanagan, reporting for WDBJ as Bryce Williams. (Image via WDBJ)

On the inevitable political front, the Obama administration and Hillary have already weighed in calling for “gun control,” by which they mean expanded gun restrictions.

But Charles W. Cooke, at NRO, points out that the troubled, unstable Mr. Flanagan passed a background check earlier this year when he legally purchased the Glock 19 he used in the attack.  As Cooke observes, a Glock 19 can’t be defined in anyone’s lexicon as an “assault weapon,” and nothing proposed by advocates of gun restrictions would have kept a gun out of Flanagan’s hands.  (Emphasis original.)

And what do these people want, when pushed? They want an “assault weapons” ban; they want a magazine-size limit; and they want background checks on private sales. And, clearly, they are quite happy to point to this incident in order to make their case. But, as we now know, this shooting has nothing to do with any of these things. The killer used a Glock 19 handgun, which is not an “assault weapon” in any universe. He fired eight shots in total. And he bought his gun legally from a dealer. In other words, he did nothing that even intersects with their coveted laws.

Flanagan clearly had mental problems, however.  His problems were well known to employers and co-workers.  It’s a serious question how we could better handle the evidence of mental instability so common with perpetrators of mass attacks; the question doesn’t have a pat or easy answer, although one thing we probably need to revisit is the blanket priority of “mainstreaming” people with mental problems, a practice that became widespread in the 1970s.

In any case, the “answer” on attacks by people with mental problems is not to treat 320 million Americans as if we might all have mental problems, and therefore none of us can be trusted to make our own decisions about firearms.  Anyone who actually disputes that point shouldn’t be voting or even have discretion over his own affairs.  He needs a conservator.

Others have a different view, of course.  The Twittersphere has been alive with commentary throughout the day.  Rounding out this selective treatment are some representative tweets from across the fruited plain.

These folks disagree that the mental problems of people cause shooting attacks.  They are apparently positive that guns cause shooting attacks.

Some folks want more investigation of the link between Democrats and shooting attacks.

Others reflect on the role of ideology in incitement.

Still others point out the mainstream political positions carved from ideological assumptions.

A different contingent sees a need for spiritual renewal and reconciliation.

And there are quite a few whose main complaint about the shooting appears to be that the season finale of the USA Network series Mr. Robot (originally scheduled to air Wednesday night) has been postponed.  It seems that the plot of the finale involves an on-air shooting very much like the one that happened in Moneta, Virginia today.


J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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