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On-air killing, death penalty and gun control
Wednesday's on-air murder of a reporter and camera man hit close to home for journalists of all stripes, television reporters specifically.
It was an especially tough broadcast for the anchorwoman of the area ABC affiliate, NTV's Colleen Williams, who also had to report the death of Doyle Denny, her co-anchor's beloved father and a former McCook High School basketball coach, who went on to be a high school principal in Grand Island and was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and other organizations.
The killer, Vester Lee Flanagan who used the name "Bryce Williams" on the air, had to be removed from the station by police when he was fired in 2013. He warned a manager there would be "negative consequences" for his firing and vowed he would "make a stink and it's going to be in the headlines." He tossed a cross at his supervisor and said "you'll need this."
He later filed a lawsuit claiming racial and sexual discrimination, since he was a gay African American.
Flanagan said he was inspired by other mass shootings in the southeast to buy a pistol -- which he apparently passed a background check to purchase.
It's obvious that someone as unstable as Flanagan should never have been allowed to purchase a handgun, but that's always much easier to see in hindsight.
Walmart says its decision to stop selling semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 was made long ago as a result of market forces, but it's hard to believe bad publicity associated with the weapons wasn't a factor.
Flanagan is dead of self-inflicted wounds, but he would have been a prime candidate for the death penalty, had he survived.
But would the death penalty truly be deterrent for Flanagan or other unstable killers?
Nebraska voters apparently will get to weigh in that question after Nebraskans for the Death Penalty turned in 166,692 signatures from all 93 of the state's counties.
The Legislature voted in May to repeal capital punishment, overturning Gov. Pete Ricketts' veto by the minimal number of votes possible.
Ricketts and his wealthy family and friends financed a petition drive however, to make sure at least 57,000 valid signatures from registered voters were collected to force a statewide referendum.
Organizers also appear to have exceeded the 10 percent of registered voters hurdle needed to block the repeal until the November 2016 general election.
Capital punishment is too important an issue to be decided by a handful of justices or even a few dozen legislators -- a vote of the people is the most appropriate means for the decision to be made.