Violent week throws gun laws into focus

Updated: Thursday, July 10, 2014
Violent week throws gun laws into focus story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The tragic shooting death of a young Muskegon mom a few days ago puts a somber exclamation point on an especially violent week in the U.S.

Rebekah Bletsch was shot in the head while jogging near her home--no one knows why.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says the shooting is a reminder that gun accessibility remains a serious problem in this country.

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Rebekah was a mom, a daughter, a friend to many. And in the circle of her family and friends, as police begin a difficult search for her killer, she will be mourned and remembered.

But in the larger sense, she's a number. And there are so many numbers it's hard to keep track.

On one hand,  its easy to understand how we become desensitized to the horrors of violence.

In the Middle East people are being murdered every day in the name of righteousness. It's numbing.

We're sending in advisors. And we know where that led us 50 years ago in Vietnam.

In Israel, the citizenry seems to be gearing up for an all-out confrontation with Hamas after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered.

In Texas, more than 50-thousand Central American children are being cared for in refugee camps. Their parents sent them up hoping they'll get citizenship. Nobody knows what to do about it.

Our increasingly unpopular president is trading barbs with an even more unpopular intransigent Congress. Nothing gets done.

On the other hand, we have increasingly liberalized gun laws which don't seem to be stopping those intent on murdering people.

Over the past weekend, on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, two men began trying to shoot each other.

They were unsuccessful. But they managed to shoot  11 innocent by-standers. One of them was killed and another is still in critical condition.

In New York City, 23 people were shot. Among them a 10-year-old,  a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old.

In Chicago, 35 people were shot. One person is dead. Many of the others are hurting.

In Newark, New Jersey, a 17-year-old girl--a cheerleader--was forced to get on her knees before being shot in the head. Her boyfriend was shot, too. He has survived.

And in Cumberland County, Kentucky, a five-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his two-year-old sister with his new .22 caliber rifle. The boy's grandmother, who points out it was a child-sized weapon, says the tragedy was God's will. "It was her time to go," she said. "she's in good hands with the Lord."

The carnage is so overwhelming we have lost our ability to process it in any meaningful, thoughtful way. We deal with it by shrugging our shoulders, shaking our heads, and looking for someone to have lunch with.

Where do bad guys get their guns to commit these atrocities? Some are stolen. Some are from the gun case at home. But most are purchased illegally  at gun shows and from shady gun dealers.

A teenaged shooter in a Chicago gang told a reporter there that he can get his hands on a weapon any time--as quickly as you can get a burger at a fast food restaurant.

A phone call and a pickup, he said. As simple as that.

And what are we doing about it? Virtually nothing. We can't even get a decent background check law in place for those who buy weapons. The NRA holds that automatic weapons are just fine.

I don't think most people believe that. But most people don't have the money to lobby Congress on their behalf.

My deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Muskegon's Rebekah Bletsch. I just wish i had more than condolences to offer.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on May 29, 2015 17:19 GMT

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy went into reverse in the first three months of this year as a severe winter and a widening trade deficit took a harsher toll than initially estimated.

The Commerce Department says the overall economy as measured by the gross domestic product contracted at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the January-March period.

The revised figure, even weaker than the government's initial estimate of a 0.2 percent growth rate, reflects a bigger trade gap and slower consumer spending.

It marked the first decline since a 2.1 percent contraction in the first three months of 2014, a slump that was also blamed on winter weather.

Economists expect a rebound in the current quarter to growth of around 2 percent and expect the economy to strengthen later this year.

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A weak U.S. economy pulled down consumer sentiment in May.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment fell to 90.7 from 95.9 in April. The May reading was the lowest since November.

Consumers of all ages and income levels were gloomier this month. And they were less confident both about current economic conditions and the future.

Still, Richard Curtin, chief economist of the surveys, noted that the index has averaged 94.6 the first five months of 2015, highest since 2004.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that the U.S. economy fell at a 0.7 percent annual pace the first three months of the year, hurt by severe winter weather and a widening trade deficit.

UNITED STATES-CUBA

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. has taken Cuba off its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Secretary of State John Kerry has signed an order removing Cuba from the U.S. terrorism blacklist as part of the process of normalizing relations between the Cold War foes.

Kerry acted 45 days after the Obama administration informed Congress of its intent to do so. Lawmakers had that much time to weigh in and try to block the move, but did not do so.

The step comes as officials from the countries continue to hash out details of restoring full diplomatic relations, including opening embassies in Washington and Havana and returning ambassadors to the two countries. Friday's removal of Cuba from the terrorism list had been a key Cuban demand.

GERMANY-G7-FINANCE

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) -- Finance ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy democracies heard a sharp call from U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to find agreement on more financial help for Greece.

Lew said that a further delay in Europe's six-month old talks with Greece was "courting an accident" -- such as a Greek default or messy exit from the euro, which could have unpredictable effects on the global and European economies.

Lew said Friday at the end of meetings in Dresden, Germany: "Too much time has been spent unproductively." The ministers at the meeting officially discussed more long-term projects such as making sure multinational companies pay all their taxes, but Greece overshadowed the talks.

Lew said "the challenge is to treat this week as a week in which there has to be progress."

BRITAIN-EU

BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel has sounded a conciliatory note on Britain's efforts to renegotiate its relationship with the European Union, saying "when there is a desire there should be a way."

British Prime Minister David Cameron is making a whirlwind tour around Europe to press his case for concessions on the terms of Britain's membership in the EU. He met with Merkel in Berlin on Friday after a morning meeting with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz.

Merkel said after the talks that it would be in Germany's interest to see some changes and that her country would negotiate in a "supportive and constructive way."

Germany has a "clear cut hope" that Britain will remain a member of the EU, Merkel added.

ALZHEIMER'S DRUG-SWITCH

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A federal appeals court in New York has ruled that drug manufacturer Actavis PLC's attempted switch of patented Alzheimer's medication violates U.S. antitrust law.

The decision released this week explains last week's ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that requires the Dublin-based company to keep distributing Namenda until 30 days after its patent expires on July 11.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (SHNEYE'-dur-muhn) sought that court order. He alleged that antitrust and state law violations by Actavis pushed patients to its new patented drug Namenda XR to avoid losses from cheaper generics.

The court says the "hard switch" by Actavis "crosses the line from persuasion to coercion."

Actavis says its new drug, taken once daily instead of twice, is better and demand is growing. The company declined to comment further about the court's ruling.

VOLKSWAGEN-UNION

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- The head of a rival group to the United Auto Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Tennessee says his group doesn't share close links to another outfit that worked against a union election at the factory last year.

The American Council of Employees was formed after the UAW narrowly lost that vote. A group called Southern Momentum organized opposition to unionization at the Chattanooga plant.

The newer group, ACE, now has an attorney who served as a leader of Southern Momentum. But ACE's president, Sean Moss, says it's wrong to assume there's wide overlap between ACE and Southern Momentum.

Moss says that many of the workers who supported Southern Momentum opposed any sort of organized labor, while ACE backs Volkswagen's desire to create a German-style works council at the plant.

BREWERY CANS WATER

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- An Anheuser Busch plant in northwest Georgia has started canning water instead of beer to help flood victims in Texas and Oklahoma.

Multiple media outlets report the Cartersville plant halted its beer production to produce 50,000 cans of water to distribute to the flooded areas by this weekend.

Cartersville brewery manager Rob Haas told NBC News the brewery has participated in similar initiatives in the past, including during the Northeast's recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

The brewery even has a special white can that it uses for the water.

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