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 November 25, 2014 18:10 GMT

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy grew at a solid 3.9 percent annual rate in the July-September period, even faster than first reported, giving the country its strongest back-to-back quarters of growth in more than a decade.

The Commerce Department says the third quarter growth rate climbed from an initial estimate of 3.5 percent because of greater spending by consumers and businesses. The figure followed a 4.6 percent surge in the spring, which resulted in the biggest consecutive quarters of growth since 2003.

Analysts believe growth could slow to around 2.5 percent in the current quarter but then accelerate again in 2015. They expect growth of around 3 percent, representing a sustained acceleration in activity six years after the Great Recession.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

PARIS (AP) -- A major international organization is calling on Europe to relax its fiscal rules and for governments to spend more money, saying Europe's sluggishness is dragging down the global economy.

Tuesday's report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a gathering of the world's richest countries, says Europe has consistently underperformed economically and risks remaining economically stagnant unless demand picks up. The report also calls for major reforms in Japan, saying its debt is unsustainable.

EU requirements that members keep budget deficits below 3 percent of GDP are coming under increasing pressure as the bloc's economy fails to pick up.

Germany, a fierce defender of the budget rules, was taken to task in the report, which called on the government to invest more in childcare and infrastructure.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A fresh survey finds U.S. consumer confidence down in November following a big gain in the previous month.

The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index fell to 88.7 in November, down from a seven-year high of 94.5 in October.

Conference Board economist Lynn Franco says that the decline primarily reflects reduced optimism in the short-term outlook, as consumers expressed less confidence in current business conditions and the present state of the job market.

But she adds that expectations about future income remain virtually unchanged. With gas prices falling, this should help boost holiday sales.

NEW YORK FED-HOUSEHOLD DEBT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans are slowly but steadily borrowing more money, bringing to an end a five-year effort to cut household debt that has slowed consumer spending and the economy.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says total household debt increased $78 billion in the July-September quarter to $11.7 trillion, led by rising mortgage and auto loans. That is the fourth increase in household debt in the past five quarters.

Total debt is still below the peak of nearly $12.7 trillion reached in the third quarter of 2008. But it has risen 5 percent since bottoming out in the second quarter of last year.

The sustained increase is a sign that Americans are more confident and willing to spend more, trends that could fuel faster economic growth.

HOME PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home prices rose in September at the slowest pace in more than two years, reflecting modest sales gains and a rising number of available homes.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 4.9 percent in September from 12 months earlier. But that's down from 5.6 percent in August and the smallest gain since October 2012.

Home price gains have slowed this year after rapid, double-digit increases in the previous two years. Investors helped drive the strong gains by bidding up prices but have started to cut back on their purchases.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The September figures are the latest available.

BANK EARNINGS

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. bank earnings rose 7.3 percent in the July-September quarter from a year earlier, as banks reduced their expenses and continued to lend out more money, which help drive up revenue.

The data issued Thursday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed a robust picture as the banking industry continues to recover from the financial crisis that struck six years ago.

Banks and other financial institutions insured by the FDIC earned $38.7 billion in the third quarter, up from $36.1 billion a year ago. The percentage of unprofitable banks fell to 6.4 percent of institutions, versus 8.7 percent a year ago.

The agency said the number of "problem banks" fell to 329 during the quarter, the lowest since the first quarter of 2009. Only two insured banks failed last quarter.

HOLIDAY SHOPPING-THANKSGIVING

NEW YORK (AP) -- Thanksgiving could be the best day to shop all year.

An analysis of sales data and store circulars contradicts conventional wisdom that Black Friday is when shoppers can get the most and biggest sales of the year.

Turns out, shoppers will find more discounted items in stores that are open on Thanksgiving. An analysis of promotions for The Associated Press by researcher MarketTrack, for example, shows a total of 86 laptops and tablets deeply discounted as door buster deals at Best Buy, Wal-Mart and others on the holiday compared with just nine on Black Friday.

And on the Web, discounts will be deeper on the holiday. Adobe, which tracks data on 4,500 retail web sites, finds online prices on Thanksgiving are expected to be about 24 percent cheaper compared with 23 percent on Black Friday and 20 percent on Cyber Monday.

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