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 July 06, 2015 17:13 GMT

GREECE-BAILOUT

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- A top Greek official says the government is "moving immediately"" to reach a deal with its creditors "as soon as possible" in order to stave off economic collapse.

Government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has sought support from all political party leaders and that the government is "fully aware of how crucial the situation is."

Tsipras met with rival party leaders a day after Greeks soundly rejected a proposal by creditors for more austerity measures in exchange for rescue money.

Sakellaridis said the leaders couldn't ignore the people's message for a viable deal that would be fair to the poor, deal with Greece's massive debt and restore liquidity to the hobbled banking system.

GREECE-BAILOUT: IMF

ATHENS-Greece (AP) -- International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde says the fund stands "ready to assist Greece if requested to do so."

Her statement is the IMF's first reaction to Sunday's decision by Greek voters to reject further austerity measures in return for bailout loans.

Greece is in arrears to the IMF, having failed to pay a 1.5 billion-euro ($1.7 billion) loan due last Tuesday. The IMF said it couldn't get involved in a further bailout of Greece if the country remained in arrears.

The IMF last week also said that Greece would need debt relief as well as new financing worth more than 60 billion euros through 2018 to avoid financial collapse.

Greece is expected to meet with its creditors tomorrow.

GREECE-BAILOUT-REACTION

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- On the streets of Athens, Greeks are proud of their toughness and defiance after Sunday's landslide "no" vote against creditors' demands -- but they acknowledge there's still plenty to worry about.

George Papadokostakis, a 34-year-old coffee shop owner, says he's very happy with the referendum result. He says "something happened last night with the Greek people. ... we were in a dead-end situation (but) with the `no' vote we believe there may be something better."

Shoe store worker Nicky Zachary thinks Greeks are tough and united in rejecting austerity. She says "we can live with very little and we can live through difficult situations. And I think after the referendum, the Greek people are united."

GREECE-BAILOUT-TSIPRAS

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's defense minister says three opposition parties have signed a declaration backing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (TSEE'-prahs) in bailout negotiations with creditors.

That makes a total of five parties behind the prime minister, who already had the support of his own Syriza (SEER'-ih-zah) party and the junior party in the governing coalition, the Independent Greeks.

Defense Minister Panos Kammenos says the support heralds a "new era" in Greek politics and would boost Athens' chances of reaching a deal with European and international creditors.

Tsipras convened a meeting of party leaders today, a day after winning a bailout referendum that rejected creditors' previous demands. Following the vote, Greece's finance minister resigned, and he's already been replaced.

GREECE-BAILOUT: FINANCE MINISTER

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- The Greek government has named Euclid Tsakalotos as the country's new finance minister, a day ahead of an emergency meeting with creditors in Brussels.

The 55-year-old economist was Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' lead bailout negotiator in talks that halted last month before Tsipras called a bailout referendum. In that referendum, Greeks overwhelmingly voted against recent creditor proposals required for bailout cash.

Tsakalotos replaces fellow-economist Yanis Varoufakis who quit earlier Monday, saying his departure would help bailout negotiations reach an agreement.

GREECE-BAILOUT: FITCH

UNDATED (AP) -- Credit ratings agency Fitch says Greece's `no' vote in Sunday's austerity referendum "dramatically increases" the risk of the country leaving the eurozone.

Fitch said a deal between Greece and its creditors remains possible but that there's little time. The agency said the resignation of Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis signals the Greek government's desire to again start talking with its creditors.

It said creditors could make stronger commitments on easing Greece's huge debt but were unlikely to make big concessions on austerity measures. In addition, Fitch said the European Central Bank may find a way to provide hobbled Greek banks with additional liquidity while negotiations continued.

Markets steadied on the news of Varoufakis' resignation to not register further falls. Germany's DAX ended 1.5 percent lower, while the euro was up 0.8 percent on the day just below $1.11.

ECONOMY-SERVICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. service firms grew at a slightly faster pace in June, as business activity and new orders increased.

The Institute for Supply Management says its services index edged up to 56 in June from 55.7 in May. Any reading over 50 indicates that services firms are expanding.

Steady hiring over the past year has fueled a consumer spending rebound from a winter slump. Many economists say the economy will expand at an annual rate of 2.5 per cent in the second quarter, after shrinking during the first three months of 2015.

Still, the index's hiring component slipped in June to 52.7 from 55.3 in May, which indicates that the rate of job growth might slow.

JAPAN-HONDA

TOKYO (AP) -- Honda's new CEO is promising to take more time in product development, and to bring his company together as a team to avoid the quality lapses that have led to shrinking profits at the Japanese automaker.

Takahiro Hachigo, an engineer who has worked in the U.S. as well as China, talked to reporters today after his appointment was approved by shareholders and the company board.

Honda's brand image has suffered after a series of massive recalls for popular vehicles in Japan, as well as for defective Takata air bags in global markets.

Hachigo's promise to turn the company around centers on raising the efficiency of global manufacturing and delivering on what he calls Honda-like products. But he's been a little short on specifics.

SKINNY OREOS

NEW YORK (AP) -- These Oreos are for adults. That's what the parent company of the Nabisco treat is saying about the new "Oreo Thins."

Mondelez International says Oreo Thins still have the same cookie to cream ratio, but they're thinner. And each cookie is 140 calories as opposed to the 160-calorie regular Oreo cookie.

Mondelez calls Oreo Thins a "sophisticated" snack for grown-ups that isn't meant to be twisted or dunked.

The thinner cookie joins the permanent lineup of Oreo cookies starting next week in the U.S.

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