The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Dylann Roof

Rich Galen

Monday June 22, 2015


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  • I don't want to add to the blathering and hand wringing over what happened when Dylann Roof killed nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

  • But, we can't help but wonder how a 21-year-old man - barely a man - could get to a place in his head that not only made his act possible, but apparently made it inevitable.

  • I don't want to play politics with this. I am a member of the NRA and will continue to be one, but background checks for all types of firearms are hard to argue with. I have a pistol. It's locked inside a heavy plastic container with a trigger lock inside of that. I am (or was) a pretty good shot.

  • I came by it legitimately and exchanged ownership at a licensed gun shop in Northern Virginia.

  • I'm keeping it.

  • Dylann Roof had been acting strangely. For a long time. According to a very good summary in the Washington Post over the weekend, his parents more-or-less gave up on him, an uncle tried to fill the gap, and his friends - or at least the people he associated with - all believed he was a troubled teenager, then troubled young man.

  • Where, in our culture, does someone like Dylann Roof come to the attention of mental health officials. Where, under our laws, does the state have a responsibility to step in and take someone like Dylann Roof off the streets?

  • When do we, as a society, say to his parents: He's your kid. If you couldn't get through to him, you should have asked for - demanded - help.

  • What his father did was, according to the Post article, "either bought for him or gave him the money to buy" a Glock .45-caliber pistol for his birthday this past April. According to law enforcement officials "the gun was purchased legally."

  • Even as a strong Second Amendment guy, I am deeply troubled by that.

  • Roof's own words and writings have made it clear he wanted to start a race war. His written and oral statements, which I will not repeat here, made it clear he had become enamored by the concept of White supremacy.

  • His associates and family heard him say these things. The Internet was home to a webpage he set up for people to read his racist and Anti-Semitic rants. He was "arrested twice earlier this year, once on a drug charge and later for trespassing, records show," according to the Post article. He was "found guilty of trespassing, but the drug charge is still pending."

  • So, the authorities knew about him, too. In fact, he has been paying off the trespass fine in installments.

  • Dylann Roof had no permanent address, although he apparently drifted in and out of friends and relatives homes. He doesn't appear to have had a job, although he bought the weapon and ammunition. He knew enough (or knew someone who knew enough) to purchase and set up a web page, although he dropped out of school when he was about 16.

  • It does no good to say that Roof would have found a way to get a gun and ammunition no matter what the gun laws are.

  • I get that.

  • But, what 2nd Amendment adherents must do is to help come up with a formula that might have prevented the shooting at the Emanuel AME Church, while preserving the rights of lawful gun owners.

  • The fact that his took place in South Carolina adds the whole matter of the Confederate Battle Flag on the Statehouse grounds.

  • It should come down. Governor Nikki Haley should order whoever is responsible for raising it every day to not do it this morning. If she is sued, fight the suit.

  • U.S. Route 1 in Alexandria, Virginia is officially known as Jefferson Davis Highway. I have long wondered how long it would be until someone said, "That's like having an autobahn in Germany named for Hermann Goering.

  • Symbols are important. That's why they're called symbols. Symbols, like the Confederate flag or Jefferson Davis Highway, are not just an acknowledgment of a bygone era. They are celebratory by their nature.

  • Taking down the flag or changing the name of Route 1 would not have had any effect on Dylann Roof.

  • But, as we reassess what went wrong, we can use this horrid event as a good excuse to make at least two minor changes for the better.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the Washington Post summary and to a piece in the Greenville (SC

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