TWO SLAIN

03.26.13

Antonio Santiago, Jonylah Watkins, Babies Killed by Guns, Shame the NRA

Another week, another American baby slain by gunfire—this time, a 13-month-old shot between the eyes. Michael Daly says the tragedies turn the NRA’s big lie into an outrage.

The NRA’s big lie seems that much bigger as we witnessed the killing of two little babies in less than a month.

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Mourners attend a funeral service for six-month-old Jonylah Watkins at New Beginnings Church on March 19, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Watkins was shot, along with her father, while sitting on her father's lap in the family's minivan March 11. Jonylah died the following day. Her father is recovering from his wounds. (Scott Olson/Getty)

The first in was 6-month-old Jonylah Watkins, killed in Chicago on March 11 by a bullet that was meant for her father and pierced her multiple times as she sat in his lap.

The second was 13-month-old Antonio Santiago, deliberately shot in the face late on Thursday morning in little Brunswick, Ga. The Brunswick Police Department released recordings of the calls to 911 from the scene.

“A baby’s been shot,” a female caller reported.

“Is the baby breathing?” the 911 operator asked.

“I don’t know, the baby’s in a stroller. She’s trying to get the baby out now.”

“Did you hear any shots in the area?”

“Yes, I heard the shots. Sweet Jesus, yes. Somebody shot this child. Please, the baby’s on the ground now.”

“Try to be calm….How many shots did you hear?”

“Like three shots. And the baby’s been shot in the head.”

“Is she breathing?”

“She’s still alive. The mother’s trying to give CPR…Oh, God, sweet Jesus!”

The caller handed her phone to a man who had come upon the scene while walking his dog.

“The baby’s not breathing,” the man reported.

“The baby was shot in the head?” the operator asked.

“Yes,” the man said. “Right between the eyes.”

The tape should have been played when NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre appeared on Meet the Press. He is the guy who responded to the Sandy Hook school massacre by saying we should just post cops in every school. What would he have said upon hearing these tapes and the accompanying screams of the mother in the background, that we need to post a cop beside every stroller?

The gun had not been recovered as of Monday afternoon. Nor had the one used to kill the baby in Chicago. Nor had millions upon millions of other illegal guns.

LaPierre also no doubt would have said what he did say on the show about Mayor Bloomberg’s new $12 million ad campaign to pressure senators in 13 states to back mandatory background checks for virtually all gun sales, including between private parties.

“He can’t buy America,” LaPierre declared. “We have people all over, millions of people sending us five-, 10-, 15-, 20-dollar checks saying, ‘Stand up to this guy.’”

LaPierre was here repeating NRA’s big lie, that it is just a grassroots organization of law-abiding gun owners hoping to preserve their Second Amendment rights and promote firearm safety.

The truth is that the NRA is more of a trade association that receives millions from the gun industry. A 2011 report by the Violence Policy Center says the total could go as high $52.6 million in its “Ring of Freedom corporate giving program.” That is not counting millions more from other sources, such as selling membership data. The companies include Glock and Smith & Wesson, makers of the weapons used in the Aurora movie theater massacre, and Bushmaster, which made the assault file used in the Sandy Hook school massacre.

The lie is particularly revealing, because it explains why the NRA so adamantly opposes even common sense gun control measures such as prohibiting those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms. The NRA declared that the proposed regulation to be the work of “politicians who hate the Second Amendment.”

Ridiculous rhetoric is often summoned to obscure the truth, which in this instance seems to be that the NRA opposes even this measure because it would reduce gun sales. The NRA is not protecting freedom, it is protecting gun-industry profits.

Hey, a weapon sold to a potential terrorist is still a weapon sold.

And consider how strident the NRA was in opposing legislation that would have held gun manufacturers legally liable for their products.

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Nearly 100 confiscated illegal firearms rest on a table before a press conference on gun trafficking with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, and New York City District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 in New York. (John Minchillo/AP)

Nobody can accuse Bloomberg of harboring ulterior motives. His effort was born of going to emergency rooms in his capacity as mayor when police officers are shot. He has heard screams firsthand and he has felt what any decent person feels when looking at kids who have just lost their father to senseless violence; the desperate wish you could do something, anything. He is accordingly determined to do whatever he can to ensure those brave souls did not die in vain and to prevent others from dying needlessly.

His latest effort is the ad campaign that began Monday. The commercials will air in 13 states. One features a man in decidedly un-New York attire sitting on the back of a pickup truck with a shotgun and speaking in favor of background checks.

“With rights come responsibilities,” he says. “Tell Congress: don’t protect criminals.”

Meanwhile, Chicago police report that as of Monday afternoon they had yet to arrest the person who fired the stray bullet that killed the 6-month-old. Police there have expressed frustration with the street strictures regarding “snitches.”

Police in Brunswick have charged two teens with the intentional murder of the 13-month-old, apparently after a tip from an undaunted aunt of the younger of the pair. The aunt, Debra Obley, later told a local TV reporter that she had inadvertently given her 15-year-old nephew, Dominique Lane, and 17-year-old De’Marquise Elkins a ride from the vicinity of the shooting a short time afterward.

“When he got in the car, he laid down in the backseat,” Obley said of the older teen. “He kept looking around, peeping up, and I said, ‘Boy, what you doing? You skipping school?’ You know, he said, ‘No, ma’am.’”

Obley recalled that she pressed the matter and Elkins decided to walk. As he climbed out of the car she saw something in his waistband, she said.

“A gun,” she said.

Obley questioned her nephew.

“I said…‘If you’ve got something to do with this little baby, you can’t talk to me. I’m your auntie,’” Obley told the reporter. “He said, ‘Auntie, I don’t even know the boy. I don’t have anything to do with that.’”

Obley said she called the police even though that meant she was also reporting her nephew. She has since been threatened.

“People saying they are going to kill me or have people to kill me, because I’m a snitch,” she said.

She still did not regret making the call.

“That was a baby,” she said. “That baby can’t come back. That mama will never get that baby back. Whoever did it deserves to be behind bars.”

A woman who identified herself as the aunt of the older teen, Elkins, was insisting that he had been at her house having breakfast at the time of the shooting.

“He was with us the whole time,” said the aunt, Katrina Freeman.

Elkins’s lawyer, public defender Kevin Gough, held a press conference. He was joined by the teen’s great-grandfather, 78-year-old McKinley Elkins.

“The De’Marquise we know, the De’Marquise we love, would not do anything like this,” the great-grandfather said. “De’Marquise is not guilty. De’Marquise is innocent.”

The lawyer declared, “De’Marquise is absolutely, positively, 1,000 percent not guilty of these charges against him.”

Elkins’s Facebook page was taken down shortly after his arrest, but not before people had taken screen shots of his photos. One shows a tattoo on his forearm featuring a cross and the letters “RIP.” Others show him flashing Bloods gang signs. Bloods favor the number five, as in a posting under “About De’Marquise.”

“ME IN MY N***AS A TURN UR BLO5K IN TO MURDER SCENE.”

At his arraignment on Monday morning, the younger teen, Lane, was led in wearing an orange jail uniform, looking barely 5 feet tall, even younger than his years and more frightened than fierce. He was charged as an adult with first-degree murder, but he did not yet have an attorney and did not enter a plea.

The older teen, Elkins, appeared in the afternoon wearing a striped shirt. He was charged with being the one whom the mother, Sherry West, says fired into the ground after he demanded money and she said that babies are expensive and she had none. He had allegedly fired a second bullet so close to the mother’s head that it nicked her ear and a third bullet into her leg before deliberately shooting the baby in between the eyes, just like the 911 caller said.

Three years ago, federal and local authorities in Brunswick arrested 89 area residents after an undercover ATF agent bought 245 illegal guns. There were still plenty on the street, and these now included the one used to kill the baby. It had not been recovered as of Monday afternoon. Nor had the gun used to kill the baby in Chicago. Nor had millions upon millions of other illegal guns.

Save perhaps a few that might have been stolen from a factory, each and every one started with a nice little profit for a gun company like the ones that give many more millions to the NRA than Bloomberg is spending on those TV ads.