Dan Gross, the newly hired president of the Brady Campaign, counts the shooting of his brother Matt in 1997 at the Empire State Building as a seminal event in in his life. He may not call it that but he left a high paying partnership at JWT (formerly known as J. Walter Thompson Advertising) to start what eventually became the Center to Prevent Youth Violence.
From his bio at the Brady Campaign:
Dan founded CPYV after his brother was severely wounded in a shooting at the Empire State Building in February 1997.
Prior to co-founding and directing the Center to Prevent Youth Violence, Dan was the youngest-ever partner at the JWT advertising agency, managing accounts such as Kodak, Lipton, and Warner Lambert.
In an article that Gross wrote for the Huffington Post in the days after the shootings in Tucson in January 2011:
I know about headline-grabbing tragedies. My younger brother was shot in the head on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in 1997. The incident inspired me to resign as an advertising executive to start PAX, an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence.
From an article two months after the shooting in the New York Times:
Calling the violence wrought by guns a public health epidemic and identifying stricter gun control laws as the cure to its spread, the brother of a young musician who was shot and critically wounded atop the Empire State Building lashed out yesterday at politicians and lobbyists who stand in the way of such measures.
”Could you imagine if there were actually a cure for AIDS or cancer or, at the time, polio, and there were people so motivated by politics that they were trying to prevent it?” said Daniel Gross, the older brother of Matthew Gross, one of six people injured in the shootings on Feb. 23. A seventh, Chris Burmeister, a friend and bandmate of Matthew Gross, was killed.
”Our government is essentially doing nothing to prevent a deadly epidemic, even while they hold the cure in their hands,” Daniel Gross told hundreds of people who gathered in a church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for an annual remembrance of victims of crime. ”As an American, I find it embarrassing and sobering, and as a victim of the epidemic, I find it heartbreaking.”
In that same article, Gross goes on to call the NRA “immoral”:
Daniel Gross, 30, homed in on the National Rifle Association and called the politicians who accept its support and do its bidding ”immoral.”
”There is an element to the gun violence epidemic that is far more insidious than any medical epidemic,” Mr. Gross an advertising executive, said. ”It may sound like a bad movie, but there are actually evil people working to spread the virus, including people in our government.
”They generate a smokescreen of flawed and deceptive arguments to hide their true concern, which is not the physical health of the American people but the financial health of the gun and ammunition industry.”
So lets look at what actually happened that day on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building.
On February 23, 1997, Ali Hassan Abu Kamal, a 69 year-old Palestinian and former English teacher from Gaza, killed one man and wounded six others including Matthew Gross before taking his own life. He was armed with a Beretta .380 pistol that he had purchased in Florida. According to stories at the time, he had two identical letters – one in Arabic and one in English – in a pouch around his neck that blamed the U.S., England, and France for oppressing the Palestinians, expressed his hatred for Zionism, and against two business partners.
The pistol that Abu Kamal used was purchased at Oaks Trading Post in Florida. It should be remembered that the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act had already been enacted by this time and Abu Kamal’s purchase went through a NICS check. Of course, this didn’t stop either Dan Gross or then New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani from blaming Florida’s gun laws.
The story put out at the time was that Abu Kamal had been ruined financially and was depressed over it. From CNN:
In the Gaza Strip, relatives of Kamal prepared Monday for a wake at the home of his daughter and son-in-law. His family said he had come to he United States for a business opportunity, and had been cheated out of his savings.
His son-in-law, Marwan Abu Samra, said Kamal was despondent after losing his life savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And his daughter, Marfat Abu Kamal, suggested that he was unable to return home after losing his money. We don’t know until now, she said.
Because of this story, the police in 1997 attributed the shooting to a deranged individual working alone. We later come to find out the story of Abu Kamal being suicidal over the loss of money was a cover story that the family put out at the insistence of the Palestinian Authority.
But in a stunning admission, Kamal’s 48-year-old daughter Linda told the Daily News that her dad wanted to punish the U.S. for supporting Israel – and revealed her mom’s 1997 account was a cover story crafted by the Palestinian Authority. “A Palestinian Authority official advised us to say the attack was not for political reasons because that would harm the peace agreement with Israel,” she told The News on Friday. “We didn’t know that he was martyred for patriotic motivations, so we repeated what we were told to do.”
But three days after the shootings, Kamal’s family got a copy of a letter that was found on his body, they said. The letter said he planned the violence as a political statement, his daughter said. “When we wanted to clarify that to the media, nobody listened to us,” she said. “His goal was patriotic. He wanted to take revenge from the Americans, the British, the French and the Israelis.”
She said the family became certain that he carried out the attack for political reasons after reading his diary. “He wrote that after he raised his children and made sure that his family was all right he decided to avenge in the highest building in America to make sure they get his message,” said Linda, who works for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. She said her mom burned the diary, fearing that it would cause the family trouble.
If one re-reads the story from 1997 about Abu Kamal in the New York Times, you get inklings that he was more than just a suicidal investor despondent over his losses. While he was in Florida, the story says,
Ms. Gregory said that he was polite and stayed in his room a lot, occasionally going for a walk down the street, except when a young foreigner periodically came and picked him up. At night, he sometimes went to pray at a nearby religious center, the Islamic Society of Brevard.
He was also in contact with an old friend who worked for the Saudi Arabian Mission to the United Nations which may mean nothing but with the number of contacts between Saudis and jihadis I find it interesting.
To sum up, you have an angry Palestinian intent on jihad who had friends in both New York and Florida that committed a terrorist act in New York City. It is incredibly naive to believe that someone like Abu Kamal could not have obtained a firearm, legally or illegally, given his intent and resources. His young Islamic friend in Florida or his connected Saudi friend in NYC could have helped him obtain a gun one way or another. To blame gun laws is to ignore the reality of the situation which is that it is hard to stop any “lone wolf” terrorist intent on killing, who has allies, and who doesn’t care if he lives or not.
Unfortunately, the reality of these shootings will be continued to be ignored while the media pays homage to the new head of the Brady Campaign.