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 the blood of innocent children, women and men 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 its 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 probably just purchased another bumper stock accessory for their AR-15 semiautomatic weapon.

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 false advocacy of a flawed interpretation of the Second Amendment should not provide a fig leaf for the naked greed and hypocrisy that are the sole motivation 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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Point of View Columns

Welcome to Fantasyland

Political discourse, particularly on the right wing of the right wing, has been untethered from reality for quite some time. Consider, for example, the search for “truth” that would “prove” that President Obama is (a) a Muslim, (b) a foreign born illegal immigrant or (c) the anti-Christ. The voyage on the irrational ocean has visited ports that legitimize the shutdown of the federal government and the degradation of this country’s international credit rating. And the ranting in the wake of the Oregon gun tragedy further highlights the Teapublican fondness for fantasy.

Demonstrating his now legendary lack of grace and class, days after the massacre in Oregon Donald Trump resurrected the action hero view of gun ownership. He stated that if the students and faculty and security guards all had guns, death would not have visited Umpqua Community College. The fact that combat veterans and war journalists are unanimous in recounting the chaos inherent in firefights that take place during war should cause even the most committed gun-lover to pause and consider the vision of armed gunmen and gunwomen with little or no military training shooting to kill.

But, doubling down on his cinema-based theory of public safety, Trump went on to say that if he were subject to attack he would, in effect, channel his inner Charles Bronson/”Death Wish” persona. And once again, even the most avid proponent of universal gun ownership may wish to reconsider their position with the vision of a near-septuagenarian plutocrat firing away at real and or imagined enemies.

And, in keeping with the Teapublican tradition of being the party that is the gift that keeps on giving, Ben Carson offered thinly veiled criticism of the victims in Oregon (and presumably the victims in Aurora, Columbine, Tucson and Sandy Hook) for “just standing there” and allowing themselves to be shot. Channeling his inner Rambo, sans the bare chest, Carson went on to say that if he were confronted with situation similar to that in Oregon, he would have exhorted his companions to charge the gunman, encouraging them with the knowledge that “he could not shoot all of us”.

Dr. Carson has by now given brain surgeons a bad name, or at least removed “brain surgeon” as a synonym for a brilliant person. Perhaps, because he is such a brilliant brain surgeon he might be excused from knowing that an AR-15 automatic rifle fires 15 rounds per minute, so clearly it is possible for a gunman in such a fashion to “shoot all of us”. More importantly, this supposedly brilliant and thoughtful man should know that the term “fog of war” is a reality based reference. No one knows what they might do if a gun was aimed at them, and only highly trained combat and law enforcement personnel actually know what to do when the bullets start flying.

But not being satisfied with pouring rhetorical salt on the real wounds of the real victims and real survivors of all of the many real gun massacres in this country, Ben Carson has been quoted as saying that he would rather see “bullet riddled bodies” than see the passage of any gun control legislation. And with these statements Dr. Carson has made it clear that he is not running for President of the United States of America, instead he is running for President of the United States of Gun.

The further tragedy is that in addition to all this careless, heartless, senseless and insane talk about guns and gunfights and “bullet riddled bodies”, the Teapublican Party runs the real danger of having its leading candidates ultimately giving it the identity of the Fantasy Party. In addition to fanatical devotion to guns, no matter the cost in blood and treasure, the leading Teapublican candidates truly believe that a multibillion dollar wall (with a great big door) will curtail illegal immigration. The party is now totally wedded to the concept of repealing the Affordable Care Act “on Day One”, thereby vaporizing the healthcare coverage of over 20 million American men, women and children with no alternative plan.

On the foreign policy front Teapublicans propose to project strength by “telling” the Supreme Leader of Iran what he should do and by refusing to even speak to Vladimir Putin. We hear of plans to reprise the tragic horrors caused by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, once again accompanied by the promise that the U.S. military actions will be brief, limited, surgical and successful (this time)(really)(honest).

The final tragedy is that instead of offering thoughtful alternatives to the agenda of the Democratic Party, the Teapublicans have shrouded themselves in a world of fantasy and denial, setting forth policies that will never work, from “Day One”. And that is too bad, as the American people deserve better.

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Point of View Columns

The United States of Gun

Given the proximity of the Washington Naval Yard gun massacre, as well as its incremental horror, one could have hoped that Congress would have taken time out from cutting food stamps allocations and trying to eliminate Obamacare to pay attention. One would have hoped in vain. To the collective shame of this country, the Washington Naval Yard joins Aurora and Tucson and Sandy Hook and Fort Hood as another synonym for atrocity while the Congress does absolutely nothing.

The Teapublicans and the right wing of the right wing are adamant in their defense of what they contend is their constitutional right to own an unlimited number of guns including those that serve as hand held weapons of mass destruction.

Even the most common sense proposed limitations, such as background checks for mental illness and criminal records are met with outrage and implacable opposition. The fact that gun massacres with multiple deaths upon multiple casualties have become a part of the American way of life is met with a call for more guns in the hands of more Americans.

What is peculiar about this adamant and absolute Teapublican defense of the right to bear arms is that it does not extend to the right to vote. The same right wing avatars that are incapable in compromising on any limits, controls or oversight regarding the right to possess firearms have no problem with the multiple barriers to voting that are being erected across this country. In fact, the same Teapublican legislatures that trample even modest gun control proposals into dusty fragments are the same legislatures that are passing voter suppression laws the likes of which have not been seen since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In North Carolina for example, new voter suppression laws have been passed with the express purpose of making it more difficult for minorities, the elderly and the young to vote. The fact that members of these demographics are not part of the Teapublican base of support is not coincidental.

And so, we are now witness to the irony that it is easier for a black man in North Carolina to own a gun that it is for him to vote. Somehow in the fevered brains of the predominantly white Teapublicans in North Carolina and elsewhere fear black people who vote more than they fear black people who own guns.

The naked illogic of this situation should be obvious as the exercise of the right to vote is far more important to the preservation of democracy and democratic institutions than individual gun ownership. Unless you believe that there are federal black helicopters about to lift off and come and take you away, voting presents a far more effective and rational way to establish and promote policies.

Say what you will about the Teapublicans, but they have managed to turn selective hypocrisy into an art form. Somehow the right to bear arms is an absolute right that should not be subject to any limitation whatsoever.

However, even though the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that a woman has a constitutional right to choose an abortion, the Teapublicans in many states have taken so many steps to limit that right to choose that the right is virtually meaningless for women who desire such medical services.

While the right to own guns, rifles, shotguns and assault weapons is inviolate on the Planet Teapublican – the right to vote of minorities, the elderly and anyone who is not a reliable supporter of the Teapublican Commandments can be modified and limited to make their right to vote virtually meaningless.

Indeed, to an observer from another country, it would seem that the only right that is absolute in the Teapublican Constitution is the right to own a gun. And it may be only a matter of time before this country is properly renamed “The United States of Gun”.

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Point of View Columns

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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