Our hearts always go out to the victims of senseless violence. But when there’s a personal connection to one of the victims, hearts grows heavier and our sense of rage intensifies. And the question we’re always left with is the same: Why?
There are a whole lot of “whys” in the deadly shooting that killed five people who did nothing but go to work last Friday at the Henry Pratt Co. plant in Aurora, Ill. All were just trying to make a living. So were the five police officers who were shot and wounded in the process of trying to apprehend him.
Among the dead was 37-year-old Josh Pinkard. We didn’t know him, but we wish we had. He sounds like an amazing guy. Considering that he had the courage and presence of mind to send his wife a final text message just before he died, telling her he loved her, he must have been a special person. Many people in our community know his wife, the former Terra Taylor, a West Jones graduate. She is left to raise three young children on her own after being robbed of the man she called “the love of her life.”
And why? Because the company had to fire a man from his job. That was worth pulling a gun and firing at every one in the room and the officers who came to arrest him?
The national media, as usual, is focusing on the gun and how the shooter got it. In this case, that scrutiny is justified. Something in the system of background checks failed.
Gary Martin, 45, who had been convicted of a felony in the Mississippi Delta in 1995, wasn’t supposed to be allowed to purchase or possess a firearm. But apparently he was sold a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic handgun in March 2014 in Illinois. Five days later, he was denied a concealed-carry permit because his conviction in Mississippi was flagged on his record. His state gun license was then revoked, but he was never required to give up the gun.
And it’s not like police never came in contact with him. Records show that Aurora police arrested him at least six times, including for domestic violence.
His Mississippi conviction was for a particularly violent attack on his girlfriend — stabbing her and beating her with a baseball bat, according to reports.
Even if Martin had received the maximum for that crime (20 years) and served his entire sentence (and we highly doubt that’s the case), he would have been out of prison by 2015. But his conviction should have never slipped through the cracks and allowed him to purchase a firearm legally.
We know he still could have gotten his hands on a gun and done this dastardly deed regardless of his criminal record, but it’s particularly disturbing that he was able to get a gun by legal means.
Stories of mass shooting always get politicized. This one should be used to point out a failing in the system to prevent something like this from happening again. That does little to help the Pinkards or any of the other victims, though. Please keep them in your prayers.