|Mug Shot of Nehemiah Griego, alleged local mass murderer|
Let's be clear, New Mexico's culture is still very much linked to Times Gone By, including the romance of the Wild West period. People have guns, they shoot guns, and there are far too many shoot outs and shoot-em-ups in New Mexico for a sense of relaxation and ease. There is an edginess pretty much all the time. To put it mildly.
But the Griego Thing was and is something else again. It's partly because Greg Griego was so well known in town. This was not some random gang-banger nor was this an isolated incident of gun mayhem brought on by drugs or alcohol, longstanding feud -- or so far as anyone knows, abuse.
No, this was a very well-known and well-respected high profile Christian -- Born Again Christian -- household, the father a pastor, the mother a stay-at-home-homeschool-mom, the children (there were ten of them, I didn't realize, but most did not live at home) little angels. Angels, I tell you. Including Young Nehemiah, the confessed murderer.
Angels, the lot of them.
People have glommed on to violent video games as the possible culprit, the trigger shall we say, and apparently the uncle has been going around to the teevee shows blaming Young Nehemiah's 12 year old girlfriend for egging him on. Of course, the obvious issue was that there were accessible guns in the house.
Sure, if he was intent on murder, he might have taken a hammer or an axe -- or tied everybody up and burned the compound down around them for that matter. Those who insist that guns are not the issue will perform any acrobatic exercise necessary to divert attention from the proximate source or tool for the bloodshed.
There are plenty of curiosities and issues that may have been contributing factors, for example, Greg Griego's resignation/leave of absence from his position at the Calvary Church last year (for personal reasons...? What might they have been? Was it a resignation or a leave or something else?) His inability to find another job until he landed the overnight caretaker position at the homeless shelter... eh? "Find another job" when he was on leave? Financial problems ensued that left the family on edge and barely getting by so they say.
Wait. From appearances, this was not a poor family by any stretch of the imagination, and the whole issue of his leaving the Calvary pastor-ship might be worth exploring in a bit more depth. Nobody's talking. And appearances can be deceiving.
Why would the boy go to the church (with his girlfriend) after murdering his entire household and spend the day there while a workshop was underway about the topic of mass murder (oh my) and then attend services that evening as if nothing were wrong at all... and then rather casually mention to the security guard (or someone, accounts differ) at the church that his whole family was dead... well, that part of the family that lived at the Griego compound in the South Valley was dead at any rate.
The notion that the boy is not a Monster -- while he's behaving like an archetypical Teenaged Monster -- is peculiar. The girlfriend is being posited as if she were some sort of demon, in fact. She made him do it, don't you know. And she-the-demon would have led him to many more murders at the WalMart down the road (oh really?) if something hadn't intervened... the Hand of Divine Mercy, perhaps? Charge the Girl, for she is in league with the Devil. 12 years old. Demon spawn.
How is it that none of the rest of the family in or out of town was contacted by the boy?
On and on. This is a very strange story, but then what mass murder in recent times hasn't been?
According to sheriff's investigators, Young Nehemiah loved to play "Modern Warfare" and "Grand Theft Auto," both of which are considered to be desensitizing and conditioning games, ones that have been implicated in numerous killings, including some in New Mexico.
In fact, there is an eerie parallel between the Griego Murders and the Cody Posey Murders that took place at Sam Donaldson's ranch out of Roswell some years ago. In some ways they're practically identical. Cody Posey was 14 when he slaughtered his entire household with a gun back in 2004. Cody was released a couple of years ago, so I'm led to understand, after spending a relatively brief time in juvenile custody. He was said to be obsessed with playing "Grand Theft Auto." Police indicate that Young Nehemiah likewise enjoyed the bloody game which is said to give players higher points for head shots. All the Griego family members were said to have been shot in the head.
Of course, they differ, too, in that the Griego family did not experience divorce and remarriage, nor had Young Nehemiah's mother been killed in an auto accident (though supposedly, that's what Nehemiah said happened to her when he texted a picture of her dead body to his girl friend...) Though they lived in a semi-rural compound in Albuquerque's South Valley, they were not way out in the country, as there was a WalMart within easy driving distance -- a WalMart where the authorities say Young Nehemiah intended to kill many more before going out in a blaze of police gunfire... Cody didn't really have that opportunity if he had contemplated such a thing. So far as has been reported, neither Nehemiah nor any of the other children were abused by their parents, unlike Cody's situation -- which according to some reports was really kinky and violent.
Some of those who knew the Griego family said that video games were not allowed in the household, and even television viewing was severely restricted.
Yet apparently he had access according to the police. Was it through the Demon-Girl, perhaps?
(The internet defense of violent video games has reached epic proportions, but that's another issue for another day...)
Of course there have been many calls to curb the easy access to firearms that is so commonplace in the United States. At first, I thought the Griego household, like so many survivalist and apocalyptic households (and there is no indication at this point that the Griegos were survivalists/apocalyptics), had an arsenal that the boy had used for his murderous task, but apparently there were only two guns, a .22 rifle and one of those dandy AR-15's that seem to show up in mass murders so frequently. And of course, there was plenty of ammunition. Neither the weapons nor the ammunition were apparently kept under lock and key.
There has been much push back, however, from the gunner community and their reps in the state-house and congress, including one bill designed to prevent enforcement of any federal gun regulation within the state of New Mexico. Nice. The gunners' fear of losing their guns or easy access to more weaponry and ammunition runs high. In some sense, it's an irrational fear, but very little of the gun debate in this country is rational.
Authorities have been criticized for releasing too much information about the murders and the accused young man who is said to have confessed to the crimes. But what has happened has profoundly affected many thousands of 'Burquenos who knew the Griegos, as well as many thousands of others. These killings went right to the heart of the extended caring community in Albuquerque.
Unfortunately, the caring community is too often caught in the crossfire of the peculiar American obsession with personal firepower.
I've said before that the level of gun violence, murder and mayhem in the United States is equivalent to that of a nation experiencing a civil war, and in a way, that is what has been happening in this country for many years, a low-grade, constant civil war with many factions.
My answer has long been "civil disarmament" -- ie: strictly limiting the personal possession of firearms and ammunition among the civilian population for the duration. As desirable as that might be, however, it's not likely to happen so long as government in practice and in the abstract is so distrusted by such large segments of the population. It's not that many people have firearms to protect themselves from government tyranny, it's that they can't trust the government or the police to protect and defend them, or to act on their behalf in any manner.
There would have to be a real change in the level of trust in authority, and until there is, few of those who have weapons and arsenals would be willing to give them up.
Many people have guns because they feel they have to have them; often gun regulations or bans are seen as forms of punishment for "law abiding citizens." Households with guns are far more likely to experience gun violence, and from time to time, some of them will be victims of mass murder by one of their own members -- guaranteed.
But until it happens, they will be "law abiding..." won't they?
There are ways to change the situation, but it requires changing some of the power relationships that have become institutionalized. Doing that is not easy, especially not when certain powerful interests benefit so much from keeping things the way things are.
So long as they feel protected, murder and mayhem among the rest of us is just fine...