Point of View Columns

The United States of Gun – The Endless Tragedy

The United States of Gun – The Endless Tragedy

During the past few weeks there have been two separate shooting incidents in American school. There have been several deaths and multiple injuries. Interestingly enough the shooters were apprehended alive. While it might seem beside the point, it is interesting in that these young, white, active shooters were somehow apprehended alive while multiple young, black, non-active shooters are routinely killed for possession of a cell phone or a hoodie (and Skittles) or a toy gun.

It is hard to say which is more horrific – the killing of schoolchildren by schoolchildren, or the moribund lassitude of governmental leaders when it comes to gun control. We know that the perfect world envisioned by the gun industry and the National Rifle Association would include a firearm in the hand of every man and woman in America. But the fact that even the most infantile of baby steps in the direction of gun control never take that first step makes one wonder if the NRA has a damaging dossier (with accompanying videos) on every elected official in this country.

Consider that 26 days after the horrific mosque shooting in New Zealand, the national government enacted serious and stringent legislation regarding the ownership and sale of firearms in that country. Consider that over fifty years after the University of Texas Tower shootings (the first mass shooting in America in the modern era) virtually no major national legislation regarding controls pertaining to the ownership and sale of firearms have been enacted with the exception of a short-lived restriction on the sale of assault weapons.

There are now more than 300 million people living in America. There are now more guns than people in America. America has more guns per capita than any country on Earth. Over 100 Americans die from gun violence every day. Since 1970 more Americans have died from guns (1.45 million) than all of the deaths in all of the wars in the history of this country.

Yet, even the hell of babies being slaughtered by an automatic weapon in Sandy Hook or a concert crowd being massacred by sniper fire in Las Vegas is not enough to dislodge the sclerotic Congress to do something, anything to lessen the death by weaponry which the most telling and bloody characteristic of the United States of Gun.

The NRA and the purveyors of death aka gun manufacturers have promoted the money making myth that guns are part of the American DNA dating back to the days of an American frontier and, one might add, the three century genocide war waged against the indigenous people of this continent. But there were frontiers (and genocide) in Australia and New Zealand and Canada but guns are not part of the DNA of those countries.

The NRA and gun manufacturers have sold too many Americans on the lie that the second Amendment to the Constitution gives every American the right to own a gun. A sober and quiet reading of the Constitution will reveal that the second Amendment simply does not say that. But the NRA interpretation supports the unlimited sale of guns and rifles.

And now we have learned that there is something even more tragic than a parent losing a child to gunfire, and that would be a parent losing a child to gunfire trying to protect other children. Congress won’t or can’t act to control the sale and use of guns. Trump cannot even comprehend any reasons to act to control the sale and use of guns. And too many Americans continue to elect too many men and women who will not choose to change the gun DNA of America.

And so we are left with the sad and tragic scenario where the only heroes are the children who get killed trying to save other children from guns.

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The Sad Saga of the United States of Gun

Another day, another gun massacre – such is life in the United States of Gun. We live in a country where 2 per cent of the world’s population lives and where 40% of all the guns on earth are stored. Every day – every day – 90 Americans die from guns – suicides, homicides, matricides, fratricides and patricides. We live in a country where mass murder is just one more story in the busy and crazy life story of the United States of Gun.

No matter the body count, the National Rifle Association (transparent front for the gun manufacturers of America) can be counted on to dismiss the logical evidence that lots of guns in a country means that lots of people will die from guns. And it must be presumed, that President Trump has swilled enough NRA Kool-Aid that he can actually believe that if there were more teachers with guns in Parkland, Florida a few days ago, that somehow there would be fewer deaths. Indeed, the NRA/Trump answer to gun violence is……….we need more guns.

There is something sad and pathetic about a country that endures this carnage year after year, as if death by gun violence is as much a part of nature as hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards. But in the sad saga of the United States of Gun, the disasters are totally caused by humans and these episodic gun tragedies are simply and truly avoidable. The truth is that without the proliferation of assault weapons and other hand-held weapons of mass destruction, the rain of lead terror would decrease exponentially, and there would be so many men, women and children who wouldn’t have to die.

Meanwhile, the NRA and its enablers have successfully commercialized the Second Amendment to the Constitution so that we are supposed to believe that the so-called Founding Fathers envisioned a nation where anyone with money could buy enough guns to weaponize an entire neighborhood – or gang.

Here is what the Second Amendment actually says:

 “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.”

 All throughout the Constitution, when individual rights are being established, the language is clear – when “the People” are referenced, it is always speaking about collective or community rights. Further, all rights in the Constitution are subject to conditions (for example, threatening the life of the President is a crime, regardless of the right of freedom of speech).

Nevertheless, over the past few decades, the gun lobby and the NRA have engaged in the distortion of the 2nd Amendment to boost gun sales and have been enormously successful in achieving their goals. The fact that thousands of children, women and men die every day as part of this macabre business model does not seem to be a problem.

One can only hope that at some point there are enough citizens in this country who not only are tired of the carnage – but who also care about the present and the future – so that the United States can join so much of the world that grew tired of senseless slaughter a long time ago.

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Point of View Columns

The United States of Gun – Chapter 1,518

The most recent American gun massacre in Las Vegas is the tragically perfect definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Here in the United States of Gun, the sale of virtually any kind of gun and any kind of ammunition, no matter how lethal, is legalized and yet there is collective shock and dismay when gun massacres occur again and again. The only variable is when and where blood will be spilled again.

Since the horrific gun massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 there have been 1518 gun massacres in which four or more people have been killed. The body count from these carnage carnivals has been 1700 dead and over 6000 injured and countless thousands mourning or cowering in fear. And now we add a new chapter The United States of Gun book, a chapter entitled Las Vegas – 10.1.17.

Newtown, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and San Bernardino – the list is too long and too sad to recount in this space. What we do know is that the United States, despite all of our technology and luxury and presumed veneer of civilization and advancements is rapidly claiming the title of The Most Dangerous Nation on Earth. And it is the sheer random nature of gun violence in this country that almost assures that America will hold this title for many years to come.

Sadly, random violence is known in too many venues around the world. But in most places the terror and mayhem arises from political and religious discord that is inexcusable, but does take place in the logic of some kind of warped universe. But in America, there is not even the semblance of rhyme or reason as to why a person will be shot to death in a nightclub, an office holiday party or a kindergarten.

The United States Congress has allowed itself to be held hostage by the National Rifle Association – an organization that poses as representing a citizen’s advocacy group when in fact it is a trade and industry association, the industry being the manufacture of guns and the trade being the unrestricted sale of instruments of death anywhere and everywhere and to anyone. There can be no possible reason why there are 300 million guns in this country, virtually a firearm for almost every American. Yet it is easier to buy a semiautomatic weapon than it is to buy a car. There is no reason why a device that converts a semiautomatic weapon into a machine gun should be sold to anyone – yet as you are reading this column someone just purchased another bumper stock.

As this country continues awash in the blood of over 30,000 gun violence victims this year, it is past time to ask why. Why do Americans need so many guns? Why does the ensuing violence inspire silence and inaction instead of thoughtful action and reflection? And why can the gun industry dominate the Congress of the United States even as Americans die of gunfire every day of every week of every month of every year.

And for once and for all, the advocacy of the Second Amendment should not provide a fig leaf for the naked greed and hypocrisy that are the main characteristics of the gun lobby. There are restrictions on every right articulated in the Constitution. Freedom of religion does not countenance human sacrifice. Freedom of speech does not include advocating the violent overthrow of the government. How can gun ownership be without any serious control, oversight or restriction?

Sadly, it would seem that there will be another Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech or Orlando tragedy long before Congress will take any realistic action. And the silent aftermath of the next tragedy will be heartbreaking and tragic and so very unnecessary.

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Land of the Gun Home of the Dead

The latest gun massacre, this time in Isla Vista, California is barely a two day story in the media. We have become anesthetized to mass murder by gun, the only differentiation from one story to another being the sheer number of men, women and children who are killed. And as the blood spills and the tears flow, the National Rifle Association and their enablers in Congress and on the Supreme Court continue their pompous perversion of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the national body count be damned.

Statistics have a tendency to numb, but they also inform. There are over 30,000 gun related deaths in the United States every year. Since 1982 there have been 70 mass shootings in this country, 36 of them having occurred since 2006. This alarming trend is no secret. It is in the newspaper headlines, the television lead stories and in the countless obituaries that are published every day.

The Bill of Rights was never intended to be the Ten Commandments, and there is nothing absolute about any of these “rights”. Freedom of speech has not been understood to include the publication of child pornography or threats to kill the President of the United States. We are all free from unreasonable search and seizure, but that right can be limited by a search warrant.

The logic that suggests that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is somehow sacred would be ludicrous but for the deadly price that we all pay. This logic has resulted in a demented approach to the regulation of guns that is really a series of loopholes connected by disjointed and fragmentary controls that still result in an annual death toll of over 30,000 Americans.

Too much time has been wasted on arguing about exactly what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind when the Second Amendment was proposed, written and ratified. Some legal historians believe that the Second Amendment referred to the establishment of state militias (think the National Guard). Some legal scholars believe that the Second Amendment refers to the actual possession of guns by individuals. It does not matter.

What matters is that the United States has become one vast, coast to coast killing field. What matters is the over 80 Americans who are killed by guns every day. What matters is that there is no mall, church, theater, school or street in this country that is truly safe from the plague of bullets that afflicts without regard to race, color or economic status.

Too much time has been spent accepting the legitimacy of the lunatic argument that the only solution to gun violence is more guns. If that sounds about as ridiculous as putting out a fire with a flamethrower, it is because that is the case.

Gun legislation which legalizes death by gun through laws like “Stand Your Ground” and legalizing the carrying of guns in bars, churches and universities doesn’t even begin to seem like a solution in a country where it is a tossup as to which is the greater health danger – carbon monoxide or gun smoke. And the claim that the gun has some kind of iconic, quasi-religious place in American culture only enables the gun worshippers on the altar, drenched with the blood of gun victims, an altar bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association and the merchants of death also knows as gun manufacturers.

The rest of the world looks at the United States in bewilderment as the scenario of Americans killing Americans plays out every – single – day, without respite. And while time and money is wasted on the War on Drugs, the Gun Lobby is waging a War on America. And they are winning.

 

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Gun Pornography

Just when we thought that the National Rifle Association could not go any lower it did. During its recent ranting and raving and foaming at the mouth pretense of a convention, the NRA leadership featured speaker after speaker who plumbed the depths of the pools of hatred, bigotry and stupidity that are still a part of America. And then there was the use of children as gun-toting tot props.

It should be clear to all by now that the NRA is not about the right to bear arms. The NRA is really about the right to manufacture arms, the right to sell arms and the right to make enormous profits from the manufacture and sale of arms. This means that the leadership of the NRA is really a consortium of salesmen, pimps and proselytizers of profit no matter what the cost in human bloodshed and misery.

The new president of the NRA, James W. Porter, Jr., a knuckle dragging troglodyte from Alabama, decided to up the ante in the gun control debate in this country. With his very first breath as NRA President Mr. Porter linked the gun control debate in this country to the Civil War – of course he referred to the treasonous and despicable acts of nine Southern states as the “War of Northern Aggression”.

What we really don’t need in the aftermath of Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook and the almost daily gun-fueled bloodbaths in our cities is a stars and bars-wearing supporter of white supremacist slavery advocating guns being the solution to just about every problem that afflicts this country.

And because he does have an undeserved platform for his rhetorical sewage, James Porter has the capacity to “inspire” like minded believers to take action – action that he can always moonwalk away from much in the same way that Sarah Palin continues to unsuccessfully distance herself from the carnage of the Tucson Massacre.

Not satisfied with wallowing in the gutter of hatespeak that is fed by torrents of misinformation and ignorance, the NRA has resorted to child pornography, shielding its unspeakable acts by claiming the protection of the Second Amendment. And in the process the NRA actively, affirmatively and intentionally inflicted unnecessary pain on the parents of children who have been the victims of gun violence.

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said, “I can’t describe what pornography is, but I know it when I see it.” By those guidelines it is clear that the NRA parading around children as young as five years old who are holding automatic weapons with fearsome killing power is nothing but gun pornography.

There is no redeeming value, no training pretense, and no logical reason to place an automatic weapon in the hands of a five year old. The is nothing cute about seeing a nine year old girl aiming an AR-15 rifle (of the type used in Aurora and Sandy Hook) at human-shaped targets. That the NRA would hype this awful image as proof that it is some kind of family enterprise is as disingenuous as the Mafia calling itself a family business.

The business of the NRA is the manufacture and sale of weapons of individual destruction and sometimes mass destruction. There are already enough guns in America to arm its adult citizens several times over. By now, anyone who wishes to legally buy a gun for sport or protection has one – or seven – of them.

Is anyone safer because they have a dozen AR-15 rifles? Does anyone seriously feel more constitutionally empowered because they own a personal arsenal? Does the NRA seriously think that American citizens should fear federal tanks coming down Main Street to confiscate weapons?

While the answer to those questions would elicit a barely audible “no” in the private quarters of the NRA, you will never get the leadership to admit to that. Just as you will not get the NRA to realize that good taste should have prohibited the publication of photographs of children as young as the Sandy Hook victims holding fierce automatic weaponry.

Unfortunately good taste, compassion, common sense and intelligence have no place in the halls of the NRA. But it does seem that gun pornography has found a home.

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Gun Smokescreen

Last week the United States Senate, led by the Teapublican minority, turned in yet another Profile in Cowardice by refusing to pass a diluted, milquetoast, largely symbolic gun control measure. The key element of the defeated bill was background checks. Who could be against that? The question bears consideration. The answer is simple – and it is complicated.

Since the recent gun fueled slaughters in Tucson, Aurora and Newtown, along with the daily firearms carnage that spills blood throughout this country, most Americans have come to expect that there will be another massacre – the only question being when and where? One would think that the fact that over 30,000 Americans die due to gun violence every year would make gun control something of a priority. Certainly the fact that the United States has the highest rate of gun violence of any developed nation is an embarrassment and a tragedy.

Nevertheless, gun control measures have been repeatedly opposed, diluted and defeated by the so-called defenders of “the right to bear arms”. Aside from the fact that there are serious differences of opinion and perspective when it comes to the Second Amendment it is clear from all of the writings of the framers of the Constitution and subsequent judicial decisions that none of the rights in the Constitution are absolute.

For example, the First Amendment to the Constitution proclaims freedom of speech. But it is quite clear that even with that freedom no one has the constitutionally protected right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater or to advocate the violent overthrow of the government or to publish child pornography. The right to freedom of speech is conditional.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unlawful searches and seizures by the government. But agents of the government can obtain a warrant and search your home, your bank accounts and your internet records. Indeed, if there is a perception of imminent danger agents of the government can seize you and search your person on the street without a warrant. Just ask the proponents of New York City’s odious Stop and Frisk policy. The right to freedom from searches and seizures is conditional.

One wonders how the advocates of the Second Amendment have transformed the right to bear arms into some absolute right. One would think that reasonable measures that control the possession and use of firearms only makes sense in a civilized society. That is why the nonsensical notion that any government involvement in the ownership and possession of firearms is heretical is just that – nonsense.

The fact is that most of the loudest advocates of absolute gun rights are also on the far right conservative side when it comes to restricting the rights of free speech for people with whom they don’t agree, peaceful assembly of people whose causes they don’t like, freedom from illegal search and seizure for people whose politics they don’t like and a woman’s right to have an abortion. These selective absolutists don’t even bother to defend the inconsistency and hypocrisy of their position. And they will shoot anyone who believes otherwise.

Recent polls tell us that 90% of all Americans are in favor of some kind of background check prior to gun purchases. Yet the United States Senate could not find 60% of its members willing to support such a basic measure that could only help to protect all Americans.

The search for the reason for this disconnect begins with a search for the money. Tremendous sums of money are funneled into the National Rifle Association and into the political war chests of American legislators by representatives of the gun lobby. The gun lobby’s position is quite clear – any restriction or control on the sale of guns could lead to a loss of sales and profits. In the world of weapons manufacturers – sales and profits outweigh human life every single time.

The American system of capitalism has created the highest material standard of living of any country in the history of this planet. Free enterprise has resulted in railroads and the Hula Hoop, and it has all led to many forms of progress. But unconditional free enterprise can result in murderous and cannibalistic strains of capitalism where the damage and destruction of society is acceptable if it serves the false gods of sales and profit.

The hypocrisy of gun rights advocates who would restrict constitutional rights except when it comes to guns is shameful. The willingness of the gun lobby to sacrifice your life, and that of your family, in the cause of sales and profits is unspeakable.

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Weekend Edition – January 18, 2013

Even though the Teapublican inmates are threatening to take over the Congressional asylum, I am still going to Washington for the second inauguration of Barack Obama because it will be history in the making – but the Teapublicans are still crazy. Meanwhile, in some kind of bizarre twist, we are about to witness a showdown on……………guns, where the winner or the loser will be us. And, speaking of lunatics, there are 187 Teapublicans who think that the victims of Hurricane Sandy don’t deserve federal assistance…….just because.

Not a Big Enough Asylum

On November 6, 2012 the Democrats actually picked up a few seats in the House of Representatives and several certifiable crazies like Todd (“legitimate rape”) Akins and Richard (“rape pregnancies are a gift from God”) Mourdock and Ben (“Obama is the worst president in history”) Quayle were sent home and hopefully to oblivion.

But there are more than enough Teapublicans to fill the crazy ward in the House. In just the first few days of the new Congress we have already seen bills introduced to do everything short of sending President Obama and his family to the moon (but stay tuned on that one).

Aside from over 180 Teapublicans voting to reject the fiscal cliff deal – thereby voting to send this country over the cliff – we are already hearing threats of impeachment hearings and an absolute embrace of the concept of this country defaulting on the national debt at the end of February.

A recent poll indicates that 64% of Republicans still believe that Barack Obama is hiding something about his youth. This means that the “birther” canard is alive and well and thriving in Republican circles. What is puzzling – and troubling – that there appear to be no sane, adult and reasonable Republicans willing to stand up and suggest that a lunatic strategy is actually no strategy?

At this rate the Republicans will go up on the shelf of history right next to the Whigs and the Know-Nothing Party.

The Showdown on Guns

In an historic moment, President Obama has signed 23 executive orders in an effort to truly address America’s gun addiction problem. It should be noted that he did not propose to take guns away from anyone. President Obama specifically reiterated the right of Americans to own guns legally. He also pointed out the rather logical notion that it is probably not a good idea for ex-felons or the insane to own guns.

In a predictable move the National Rifle Association attacked each and every proposal of the president. In a surprise move, the NRA even dragged the president’s daughters into the mud pit, claiming that their Secret Service protection was an indication of “elitism”, proving once again that there is simply no bottom in American politics.

Teapublicans like Senator Rand Paul accused President Obama of acting like a “king” for having the temerity to issue an executive order. He conveniently forgets that his right wing hero, Ronald Reagan, issued over 300 executive orders.

And now, we hear Teapublicans doing the Bull Connor/George Wallace/Strom Thurmond oldies routine threatening the “nullification” of President Obama’s executive orders.

Meanwhile, we are on schedule for over 11,000 Americans to die from gun violence this year.
The Teapublican/NRA response is to do nothing and let the blood flow.

The Sandy Aftermath

Earlier this week the United States House of Representatives passed a $50 billion relief bill to assist the victims of Hurricane Sandy, most of whom live in New York and New Jersey. That is the good news.

The bad news is that over 180 Teapublican members of Congress voted against providing aid and assistance to their fellow Americans. This would be the same aid and assistance that was routinely provided to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, for example.

The regional, sectarian meanness of the Teapublicans is unworthy and shameful.
Unfortunately, due to the magic of gerrymandered engineering, we are going to be stuck with these Teapublicans for a while longer.

Have a great weekend!

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