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If you have anger, a gun, and a plan – seek help ASAP!

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[UPDATED] From the NY Times: “

The owner, Ralph Hazan, pulled Ms. Timan aside and warned that Mr. Johnson might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Everyone in the office “walked on eggshells” around him, co-workers said.

Not Mr. Ercolino. “If Steve needed something, rather than go to one of the owners, he’d go right to Jeff,” the longtime employee said. “ ‘I need a sample in blue, right away.’ And Jeff wouldn’t take orders from him.”

It escalated.

“As time goes by, you could walk down the hallway and see an elbow being thrown or a shoulder being shoved, or a comment.”

Mr. Johnson seemed unimpressed by the size of his rival, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and 220 pounds, six or seven inches taller than Mr. Johnson and twice his weight. “Steve is a very laid-back guy; he’s a salesman,” the co-worker said. “But Jeff is regimented, military, a chain-of-command type.”

Ms. Timan said of Mr. Johnson: “He would taunt Steve, push him.”

It’s time for gun control

How do we recognize danger in our midst?  How do we stop the gun violence? Barely a dozen years ago, swastika covered Ben Smith shyly flipped through his binder of newspaper articles for me.  All of them expressed outrage at his racist leafleting in one of America’s toniest Midwest suburbs.  Some highlighted the unity rallies meant to protect minorities from his hate-filled bigotry.  But, most chilling were the moments he stopped to read the letters of support.

Later, my cameraman and I rode around in what would soon become Smith’s death car.  He glibly demonstrated how he threw his white supremacist newsletters on manicured lawns.  Just days later he rocked America when he went on a three state shooting rampage firing bullets out of those same blue Ford Taurus windows and tragically gunned down the much beloved Ricky Birdsong.

My life will forever be tied to that event — even though there was never a moment I had an opportunity to change or control the outcome.  If only I had.  For what it’s worth, the result is my documentary INVISIBLE REVOLUTION about racist and anti-racist skinheads featuring Smith.  Hours before the film’s premiere at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, I attended a sneak preview at the Utah State capitol in support of hate crime legislation.  Later, I even brought all of the legislators to the Sundance premiere.   The bill never passed because films don’t change the world: voters do.

Even now, rarely does a public screening go by without an audience member who points to the elephant in the room.  Why wasn’t I able to stop Smith’s horror? Why? The truth is he never confided in me.  In fact, he never even hinted.  But, I’m not alone. Now, over a decade later, let’s look around us at shooting after shooting after shooting.  Here’s a quote from Gail Collins’ NY Times column today:

Under federal law, you only can use guns with a maximum three-bullet capacity if you’re hunting migratory birds. Even the most completely mindless faction in the National Rifle Association appears willing to give that a pass.

“Hunting’s a different thing,” said Jeff Nass, the president of Wisconsin Force, an N.R.A. affiliate. “The ducks and geese can’t shoot back.” Mass shootings, Nass contended, do not occur because crazy people have access to weapons that allow them to hit a large number of people in seconds. “Mass shootings come into play because nobody’s there defending themselves,” he said. “The solution is self-defense.”

No other person – and certainly no filmmaker, psychiatrist, employer or legislator – seems capable of stopping someone who is spiraling into a place that I pray none of us ever know.   One thing seems certain.  If Ben Smith, Wade Michael Page, James Holmes, Jeffrey Johnson or [fill in name to come] had been denied such easy access to guns – Ricky Birdsong, seven people worshipping the peaceful Sikh religion in Wisconsin, and a dozen people in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado might well be alive and scores of others walking near the Empire State Building would have been left unscathed by unnecessary gun-related trauma.

The Empire State shooting is so tragic and senseless. Guns are NEVER the answer. PLEASE Seek help ASAP if you have anger, a gun and a plan.


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