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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Point of View Columns

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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Trump as Macbeth

When it comes to Donald Trump there appears to be no limit to the depths to which he will descend in his faux campaign for the presidency, a campaign that seems more and more like a textbook exercise in narcissistic self-indulgence. But this time, using his dog whistle to suggest a “Second Amendment solution” to Hillary Clinton he has once again gone too far.

It was only six years ago that Sarah Palin rose from the ashes of a failed campaign for the Vice Presidency to reincarnate herself as a Tea Party Queen. But as she staggered and wobbled from one misstatement to another falsehood, she too went too far. In the fall of 2010 she “targeted” members of Congress who should be defeated by the Tea Party zealots.

In case anyone was short on interpreting symbolism, Sarah Palin’s website displayed a national map and put a gun scope on the offices of the “targeted” Representatives. And then, a few months later, one of the Congressional Representatives targeted by Palin, Gabby Gifford of Arizona, was shot in the head.

Although it has not been confirmed that the shooter was inspired by Sarah Palin, and it is clear that he is a deranged individual, Sarah Palin created an atmosphere where “Second Amendment solutions” start to sound sane to the insane. And the blood of the individuals killed and maimed in Tucson is on the hands of Sarah Palin – indeed she is a modern day Lady Macbeth who will never be able to wash that blood off her hands.

And now along comes Donald Trump, a virtuoso dog whistle player, intimating that Second Amendment adherents could somehow solve the “Hillary problem”. Defenders/enablers of Trump contend that he is guilty of no more than spewing a bad, tasteless joke.

But there is a huge part of this country’s population that has seen presidents shot (Reagan) and killed (Kennedy, John). Many Americans have also witnessed the assassination (Kennedy, Robert) and maiming (Wallace) of presidential candidates in real time. And now that we live in a nation with over 300 million guns it would seem that this would be the worst time to kid around, joke around or dog whistle around rhetoric that even hints of “Second Amendment solutions” to the presidential campaign.

The Secret Service has already taken note of Trump’s comments, another unprecedented occurrence in American political history. But much like Lady Macbeth, we already know that any violence directed against Hillary Clinton or anyone associated with her campaign will elicit a canned denial from Trump, who will then be America’s Macbeth.

Of course, what is so sad and sickening about this entire situation is that Trump is the designated candidate of a major American political party. What is worse is that there are tens of millions of Americans who think that arrogant, indecent and profane man should be President of the United States. What is even worse is that even when Trump is defeated in November and he goes back to his gaudy hotels and his defraudulent schemes and his golf courses, those tens of millions of Americans will still be with us.

And that may be the greatest danger of all. Trump will go away and disappear into the swamp of indecency and self-aggrandizement from which he slithered. But those tens of millions of Trump supporters aren’t going anywhere.

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Taking Ben Carson Seriously

Many people who consider themselves progressive, and most people who claim sanity, do not really believe that Dr. Ben Carson will ever be elected President of the United States. That dangerous presumption could actually lead to his election, and it is time to take the man seriously and take him at his word(s). And what words they are.

Dr. Carson may singlehandedly dismantle the belief system that holds brain surgeons in high esteem because of their innate intelligence. His kindly, avuncular manner of presentation thinly disguises a malevolent and dangerous worldview, which if implemented would resurrect suffering and discord that many have thought were banished from this society years ago. Consider the words of Ben Carson:

• Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery – Dr. Carson seems to take exceptional pleasure in exhuming the rotted corpse of slavery and inserting into serious contemporary discussion. Perhaps he feels that since he is of African descent he can play fast and loose with the memory of the millions who suffered and died under the legal lash of American bondage. Just as Jews and all people of good will are righteously outraged at useless comparisons to the Holocaust, there is simply no reason to bring slavery into a discussion of the Affordable Care Act, except for shock value. And Dr. Carson clearly pleasures himself by shocking others.

• Would rather see bullet riddled bodies than any limits on gun ownership – Rather than engaging in some semblance of decency and respect for the survivors of gun victims, Ben Carson used the recent campus gun massacre in Oregon to proclaim his dedication to the gross and historically incorrect interpretation of the Second Amendment. It is never clear whether Dr. Carson actually believes the outrageous statements that he makes. But what is clear is that words matter, and his words are offensive in the extreme.

• With less gun control Jews in Germany could have defeated Hitler – Statements like these remind us of the drunken uncle at Thanksgiving who, sometime after the dessert wine has been served, goes off on a riff so stupid, so asinine and so devoid of logic that all in attendance hope that it is the wine that is doing the talking. But as far as we know Ben Carson does not drink alcohol and therefore we should take him at his word and reject him for his words. The illogic, the incorrect history and the bizarre belief that lightly armed German Jews could have defeated the Wermacht are woven together into a bizarre tapestry that literally defies response.

It is a sad testament regarding the state of the Teapublican Party that its leading presidential candidates are Donald Trump and Ben Carson. The only hope for the former Grand Old Party is that 70% of self-identified Republicans have not made up their mind. Nevertheless, one has to wonder who are these people that are not offended by Ben Carson’s rhetoric and who actually embrace what he says?

We can be certain that there will be no apologies forthcoming from Dr. Carson. He believes so deeply that what is so wrong is right that there can be no cure for his very special madness.

And while we may feel certain that he will never be president. We should be very concerned that there are literally millions of Americans who believe that what he says is so right that he should be President of the United States.

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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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Follow the Blood – Follow the Money

The horrific Newtown Massacre is all the more terrible because it is a regular part of the American news cycle. Every three to six months the national eye focuses on the blood and gore in Tucson or Aurora or Columbine or……Newtown. This country’s gun madness is maddening but to try to understand it follow the numbers written in blood and, of course, follow the money.

Some simple numbers need to be kept in mind when looking at the United States of Gun:
-Since the Columbine Massacre in 1999 there have been 181 multiple gun killings at schools
– Every day there is an average of 34 gun murders in the United States
-There are over 60,000 gun killings in the United States every year

Incredibly, with private gun carnage being at such a high rate, this country has the most lax private gun control laws in the world. As a result, in a country of approximately 330 million people there are over 300 million privately owned guns.

The numbers cited should be no surprise considering the fact that the national private armory is overflowing with weapons of individual mass destruction. And yet, there is more.

Because in addition to “personal” weaponry (hunting rifles, small caliber pistols, target weapons) being freely available, monstrous killing machines that belong only in the hands of the military and law enforcement are also freely available.

A company called Bushmaster makes the AR-15 .223 caliber rifle which was used in the Newtown Massacre to obliterate the lives of small children and their teachers. Coincidentally, this same weapon was used by the infamous D.C. sniper in 2002 to kill 10 people.

This weapon fires over 5 bullets per second its bullets can chip concrete and tear the head off an adult. With the hollow tip bullets used in Newtown, a shot from this weapon will cause instant death if the victim is hit just about anywhere. And when you finish reading this column you can go to a gun show in most states in this country and buy one.

The notion that the Second Amendment advocated massive personal arsenals is ludicrous and historically wrong. But in any event, the Constitution has been effective because it is flexible and in a time when incredibly destructive weapons are so freely available, reasonable controls on the possession of weapons only makes sense. To paraphrase President Obama, the death of thousands of innocent people every year should not be the price for exercising the right to own a gun.

In this country an individual requires a government permit to possess high explosives. One cannot possess a wide range of drugs and pharmaceutical products without government approvals. Yet it is possible to amass incredible destructive firepower without limit – all in the name of some skewed interpretation of the Second Amendment. And that’s how massacres are born.

And it is also important to follow the money. Bushmaster is owned by Cerberus Capital Management – http://www.cerberuscapital.com, a private equity firm based in New York and owned by one Steve Feinberg. Cerberus and Mr. Feinberg clearly have no problems profiting from an enterprise that actively advertises the murderous killing capacity of its products. One can assume that the blood of the innocents of Newtown is just seen as an unfortunate collateral aspect of this Cerberus portfolio company.

And Cerberus and Mr. Feinberg are not alone. Investors in Cerberus include prominent government and private pension funds, insurance companies, universities, charitable foundations as well and sovereign and family wealth funds. Clearly, if you follow the blood spilled at Newtown and from so many other venues it will lead to the money that will in turn lead to leading financial institutions and their investors.

In other words, the blood and the guilt of this national tragedy are spread far and wide. And it is this national conspiracy of gun mania and profit at any cost which explains the seeming impossible task of getting reasonable gun control laws in this country.

And one more thing – In Greek mythology Cerberus was the three headed dog that guarded the gates of Hell.

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