One of the many right wing messages seen on Facebook lately is a picture of Adolph Hitler with the words written on the picture: “GUN CONTROL IS NOT ABOUT GUNS … IT’S ABOUT CONTROL.”
Another one of these messages shows people lined up against a wall, a woman getting her arms twisted behind her by two Chinese soldiers as another soldier prepares to shoot her in the back of the head. The words on that one being, “GUN CONTROL IS GREAT … IF YOU’RE THE ONE CONTROLLING THE GUNS.”
Pretty heady stuff. Makes you want to go out and buy a gun.
Every time there is a very public shooting the gun fanatics jump out to defend the Second Amendment and everybody’s precious right to own a gun. My definition of a gun “fanatic” is someone who gets hysterically and/or offensively defensive about the right to bear arms whenever someone with a gun commits murder.
The usual response from these fanatics is, “This is not the time to talk about gun control.” Or, “This isn’t the time to politicize this event.” Which, as Ezra Klein of the Washington Post pointed out, is exactly how the pro gun fanatics politicize events like mass killings.
And now that the pro gun fanatics have duly politicized this latest outrage I’ll continue.
Anyone who owns a gun can commit murder with that weapon. Just about every person who commits murder believes they were justified in taking those lives. People who commit murder with guns do so far more easily than those who do it with other weapons. Guns do not require the killers to get close to their victims. Guns make it easier to kill. That is why they were invented. Guns were not invented to make hunting game easier. That was just a fringe benefit.
In Florida a man (Michael David Dunn) doesn’t like the volume of the music coming from a car next to his at a convenience store so after a heated argument he pumps eight rounds into the noisy car and kills one of the occupants (Jordan Russell Davis) sitting in the back seat. Florida has not only a law that allows almost anyone to have a conceal and carry permit, the state’s more famous provision is their “stand your ground” law which explicitly states you can pull out a gun and start shooting if you feel your life or property are threatened.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise Dunn pleaded not guilty and his attorney claims Dunn acted as any responsible gun owner would in that situation.
Several states have “conceal and carry” and “stand your ground” laws and the NRA and other groups, like the Koch Brothers funded ALEC, are pushing for those laws in all the states. Why? Their strategy is to create and stoke fear, i.e. law enforcement can’t protect you from the thieves, rapists and murderers and then transform that fear into a need for self-protection.
Some state legislatures are reluctant to pass conceal and carry and stand your ground laws, so to get around it the measures are put to a ballot initiative so the voters can decide the issue. The rabid gun owners then turn out to vote for those measures.
Of course, in Michigan the state legislature pushed through two gun laws, in a midnight lameduck session. The first does away with “gun free zones,” although the legislators were smart enough to keep the Capitol Building gun free. That law would make it legal for people with conceal and carry permits to bring guns into schools, daycares, hospitals, churches, parks and playgrounds.
The second law does away with the county review boards that actually review applications from people seeking conceal and carry permits. If the governor signs it, which he is expected to do since both pieces of legislation were written by ALEC so opposing them would have political consequences; when the governor signs it all someone need do is apply … and then the sheriff will stamp approved because several sheriffs in Michigan said they would not oppose any conceal carry permit requests because doing so would leave them open to law suits.
Michigan is just the latest state to try and go back to the days of the wild, Wild West. I blame it on the cable networks that have started showing reruns of all those old Western TV shows, like Gunsmoke, The Rifleman and Bonanza. People see how cool it was to carry a gun like Matt Dillon.
The deeper problem though, as Bob Costas pointed out on Sunday Night Football, the day after a football player killed his girlfriend and then himself, isn’t just the guns and the hilariously ineffective gun laws, it’s the gun culture. Our culture. Many people feel a need to have a gun, to carry a gun at all times and they feel justified in being able to blast away when the situation calls for it, as they define the circumstances of those situations.
It is becoming more and more acceptable to not only have a gun, but to also carry that gun in public. We all remember (I hope) the nuts that showed up at presidential events with firearms. There was that one nut in New Hampshire with his sidearm strapped to his leg, carrying a sign referencing a now infamous quote from Thomas Jefferson: “It is time to water the tree of Liberty.”
Afterward, William Kostric (the man with the gun holding the sign) went on Hardball With Chris Matthews to explain himself. He made no sense in his denial that his sign and gun were threats toward the president.
After someone like Bob Costas speaks out about this gun culture the pro-gun fanatics attack people like Costas for doing so, as if his being a sportscaster is a barrier to having an opinion and the right to express that opinion. The wing nuts on Fox excoriated Costas for two days after that Sunday Night broadcast. Apparently the only people who have a right to express their opinions about guns and our gun culture are those who do not oppose in any way guns and our gun culture.
When Barack Obama was first elected president the first thing the NRA (under the guidance of Wayne LaPierre) did was gin up fear about Obama coming to take away everyone’s guns. Gun sales shot up so fast gun manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand.
No such legislation was ever proposed or even spoken of during Obama’s two presidential campaigns, but that was easy to get around — LaPierre just claimed it was a secret plan. Well, if it’s a secret plan …
In fact President Obama has relaxed gun laws. He signed legislation that makes it legal to carry firearms into federal parks. And hyper-conservative Congressman Darrel Issa of California accused President Obama of being too lax on enforcement of gun laws.
But it’s all part of Obama’s secret plan …
That’s the gun culture in America, our culture. Forty-nine states have conceal and carry laws (Illinois and Washington, DC do not) and 21 states have “Stand Your Ground” laws. Philosophically it means as a culture we are becoming more accustomed and eager to carry guns and have the ability to shoot people when we, as individuals, deem it appropriate.
None of us (I hope) thought it was appropriate for Chief’s linebacker Jovan Belcher to kill his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, but Belcher apparently thought it was. And then he killed himself. George Zimmerman thinks it was appropriate for him to shoot and kill Trayvon Martin in Florida. A jury will decide if he was right.
Jacob Tyler Roberts thought it was appropriate to walk into an Oregon mall and open fire. James Eagen Holmes thought the same thing when he entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and killed 12 people. One of the most common responses to that shooting: if other patrons had been armed they could have stopped Holmes.
The theme behind that thinking being that if we’re all armed and deadly crime will go down because criminals will be afraid of the rest of us. I lived in a part of San Diego that has a high incidence of gang activity. Armed gangsters know there are other armed people in the community. They are not intimidated by that reality at all. And the idea of three, four, five or more people with guns opening fire in a crowded movie theater ought to give you pause, if not outright fear.
Bullets go wherever the gun barrel points and they will penetrate anything not able to withstand their force. Well meaning Joe Citizen with his Glock 9 wouldn’t intend for his bullets to penetrate the movie theater wall and strike an innocent person watching a movie in the next theater, but would that make Joe Citizen any less culpable? Make that five Joe Citizens responding with a gun to a shooter like James Eagen Holmes and then how many bullets would be flying in every direction?
Will stricter gun laws and closing the “Gun Show Loophole” (that allows anyone to buy guns at gun shows without background checks) end violent crime? Of course not, but it will lower the rate of gun deaths. What this country needs to do no legislation can change: we need to get away from being so fanatically a gun culture.
We may actually be getting there.
Statistics show that close to 90 percent of Americans think gun laws should be tougher, 71 percent of NRA members. Most Americans do not want criminals, terrorists and people with dangerous mental illnesses to buy firearms. The Gun Show Loophole makes it possible for all three to buy guns. And yet the NRA and ALEC oppose closing that loophole. Because of that loophole, 40 percent of the guns purchased in the U.S. are not registered.
For the “Ban All Guns Now!” fanatics: it’s never gonna happen. There are 150,000,000 gun owners in America with more than 280,000,000 registered guns. No one really knows how many guns are not registered, but the firearms industry is making more than five million guns a year. And they still find it hard to keep up with demand.
The U.S. government is not going to try and disarm half of its citizens, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office. And the fanatics on either side of the issue that believe the federal government would try are far beyond delusional.
I didn’t even talk about banning assault weapons. There are millions out there now, legally and who knows how many unregistered and illegal. That genie ain’t going back in the bottle.
No pro gun fanatics, gun control isn’t about the guns or the control, it’s about the 30,000-plus gun deaths per year. It’s about the easy access to guns that allows someone like Adam Lanza to walk into an elementary school and kill 26 people — 27 if you count his mother killed in her home.
Granted, Lanza took the weapons from his mother, who had legally purchased them, so tougher gun laws may not have stopped Friday’s rampage in Newtown, Connecticut. But we will never really know.
To the nut bars like William Kostric: the Tree of Liberty is watered every day in this country, with the blood of its citizens. That is the price we pay to be such a fanatical gun culture.