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Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Westerly killings and the end of innocence

We have now had our mass shooting. Now what?
By Will Collette
Julie Cardinal
On Friday December 27, a memorial service was held in Westerly to celebrate the life of Julie Cardinal who was gunned down at the Babcock Village assisted living facility on December 19. Two other women were also shot and severely wounded.

They were all shot by 66-year old Joseph Giachello who had a history of making homicidal threats

He was in the process of being evicted from Babcock Village. After shooting the three women, Giachello killed himself, thus raising the body count to the official status of “mass shooting.”

Given the pervasive gun culture and toxic politics, it was inevitable that our community would make national news by suffering a mass shooting. 

After all, neighboring Hopkinton has declared itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” town, where gun nuts don’t have to worry about rigorous gun law enforcement. Richmond has been considering a similar measure.

Three of our area wingnut state legislators – state senator Elaine Morgan and state reps Justin Price and Blake “Flip” Filippi – have staunchly opposed all efforts to strengthen Rhode Island’s gun laws. Morgan has been particularly outspoken in promoting the “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” concept, and shame on her.

Flip Filippi was quick to offer his thoughts and prayers after the slaughter – now watch how he works to block passage of any new gun legislation in the next General Assembly session. His cohorts, Morgan and Price, will continue to spout radical right rhetoric about the sanctity of the Second Amendment.

All this sets the stage for continued mass scale gun violence.


While area schools in particular, as well as other public places such as churches and entertainment venues have become more security-conscious, I doubt anyone would have picked an assisted living facility as the site for South County’s first mass shooting.

In my opinion, this just shows that no place is safe from gun violence. We simply cannot anticipate every possible killing ground. All we can know for sure is that there will be more innocent people sacrificed on the altar of the hallowed Second Amendment at other mass killings, if not here than elsewhere.

The Associated Press reports that by its count, mass killings (as opposed to mass shootings) hit a record high in 2019 at 41. All but eight of these atrocities were committed with guns. Official statistics are hard to come by since congressional conservatives have stripped funding for gun research.

Despite his past history, the killer Joseph Giachello was able to legally purchase the 38 caliber revolver he used to kill Ms. Cardinal two days earlier from Hope Valley Bait and Tackle in Wyoming, the heart of Second Amendment sanctuary country.

So far, we don't know the reason why Giachello decided this was a good day for people to die, but his gun buy two days earlier certainly moved him to carry out whatever was in his sick head.

I’m sure the legality of that purchase will be some comfort to the grieving family of Ms. Cardinal and to those of the other two victims. They are Robin Moss, 38, who worked at the facility and Donna Thornley, 66, a Babcock Village resident.

It has taken nine operations to stabilize Ms. Moss to the point where her husband says she may make a full recovery.

Now that we have been "blooded," there are some questions we must confront.

Can we make any sense of all this? I can’t.

Can we figure out what we can do to stop these mass attacks from happening? Given the current climate, I doubt it.

Can we at least determine the cause? In a general way, we can.

Let’s start with our pervasive gun culture that not only puts so many guns into circulation, but allows crazy and murderous guys to buy more guns almost daily. The more guns that are out there, the more people get shot by guns. That has to stop.

And don’t give me this crap about the sanctity of the Second Amendment which reads:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
From this 18th century word salad, modern gun advocates conclude gun ownership is an inalienable right. They ignore historical context of these words. The first half of the amendment clearly show the Founding Fathers’ link between gun ownership and the need of the nation to raise an army from time to time. 

Unless you are a National Guard or in the Reserves for one of the branches, your right to keep and bear arms is far from unconditional.

We need fewer guns out there and we need to do better at keeping guns out of the hands of people who will use guns to do harm.

Even in the homes of respectable, law-abiding citizens, guns boost suicide rates as well as accidental death and injury, especially to children. There is little to suggest that gun ownership actually makes you safer.

Further, guns rarely ever fulfill the NRA’s promise that the best protection against bad guys with guys is a good guy with a gun. Look at all the mass shootings in red states where gun ownership is high. Only in rare cases have armed citizens shot it out successfully with armed killers.

I was heartened by New Zealand’s assault-style weapons ban after the March 15 massacre at a mosque in Christchurch where 51 were killed and another 49 wounded.

Within a month, New Zealand banned just about all semi-automatic and military-style weapons and set up a buy-back program to scoop up existing guns.

Fox News reported (yes, Fox News) that by the end of the official buy-back period on December 20, more than 65,000 weapons were bought back, turned in, modified to conform to the new law, taken from gangs or picked up at gun dealers. In such a small country, that puts a huge dent in the weapons supply.

I doubt there is any single answer to America’s unique gun violence problem. Poverty, domestic abuse, craziness, religion, gangs and hate pop up as motives for many of the shootings. 

Other countries also have these problems, but nothing like the death toll in the U.S. What sets us apart is the sheer number of guns - an estimated 400 million which translates into 1.2 guns for every American man, woman and child - and more guns mean more gun mayhem. 

 I realize that any and all efforts to curb gun violence will be met with fierce resistance and in Rhode Island, howls of protest from our wingnut trio (Elaine Morgan, Flip Filippi and Justin Price).

But coming full circle to Julie Cardinal, her death reminds us that we just can’t give up.

Of the many examples of good character Ms. Cardinal displayed in her life, her willingness to stand up and fight against injustice stands out.

In 2016, after hearing the Westerly Yacht Club held a vote re-affirming its ban on allowing women to become members, Cardinal led the fight to make the boys eat that decision and this was well in advance of the “Me Too” movement. After several months of constant public pressure, the Club rescinded that decision.

I smiled when the announcement was made that the location for her memorial celebration would be the Westerly Yacht Club. Progress comes through many small acts and many sacrifices.

There is a GoFundMe page that has been set up to help her children. As of this writing, it has raised almost $60,000.

So give, please, and saddle up for the struggle ahead to stop the madness.