Gun nuts run amok
This past summer a young man named James Holmes bought four guns at local shops and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet in the two months prior to opening up inside a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.
Now we have still another man (they always seem to be men) going berserk in an elementary school in Connecticut, killed at least 30 people, 20 of them children.
One recent report noted that "the gun murder rate in the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most populous nations combined. Among the world's 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids."
Besides Aurora and Newtown, just in the last dozen years we've had Columbine, the Beltway sniper attacks in Washington, DC, the Virginia Tech massacre, the shooting in Tucson, and the shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
According to the FBI, two-thirds of the 12,664 murdered in 2011 involved a firearm.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence reports that there are about 5,000 gun shows in the United States every year. From 25% to 50% of firearm vendors at gun shows are unlicensed, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). One recent estimate reveals that about 40% of guns are purchased at gun shows or on the Internet. The killer in Aurora used the Internet to purchase most of his guns. One recent study found that "unlicensed 'private sellers' -- those who are not 'in the business' of selling firearms -- do not have to conduct background checks. These sales -- which take place in many venues, including gun shows and, increasingly, on the internet -- account for about 40 percent of U.S. sales, and fuel the black market for illegal guns. And they leave no electronic or paper trail behind them."
I have previously a blog about a "gun culture" in America. In this blog I noted that there are a number of trade publications devoted to guns of various sorts. Leading the way are two associated with the National Rifle Association, American Rifleman (circulation of 1,480,074) and American Hunter (1,059,010), with the North American Hunting Club's North American Hunter close behind (715,725). Other examples include such appropriate names as Guns and Ammo (circulation of 575,000), Shooting Times (189,634), Combat Handguns (126,498), Gun World (126,402) and one simply called Guns (circulation of 168,000). Indeed, says Tom Diaz (author of Making a Killing: the Business of Guns in America) this "gun industry" helps to promote the gun culture, "within which the firearm is less a utilitarian tool than an icon, so laden with implicit value that its hold over its devotees approaches the mystical."
A report in the Los Angeles Times notes that "Adam Lanza, whom sources identified as the school shooter, was armed with three semiautomatic weapons, all legally registered to his mother: a Bushmaster .223 rifle --similar to the military's M-16 rifle -- that he left in his mother's car before the shooting, and a Sig Sauer pistol and a Glock 9-millimeter, according to a federal law enforcement source. The source described them as heavy-firepower weapons with rapid triggers." I wonder why anyone would want such a collection of murderous weapons in the first place!
Ironically, the shooter killed his own mother with one of these weapons before he went to the school.
I don't think I can add much more to all the reports and commentaries already published in virtually every media outlet in the world. What I do want to say is this (and I will pull no punches here).
The previous victims of mass killings like this one were mostly adults (at Columbine many were high school students). This time the shooter went into a 1st grade class and murdered 20 children. This makes it different. This makes it more than the usual "wake-up call." This makes it about time to metaphorically shoot down the gun lobby and all of their supporters, including all of the politicians (on both sides of the aisle) and tell them "enough is enough." I am not going to repeat the usual refrain of "how many more victims do we need," etc. That won't work anymore. It is time to take serious action and get some regulation in force. It is time to either close down gun shows or subject them to the tightest regulation possible. It is time to get rid of the NRA.
I have to admit my bias. I hate guns. I have never owned one, and I never will. The claim among gun advocates that we need guns to protect ourselves is absurd. I was in a Starbucks this morning and there were several men talking about the shooting and although I could not hear the entire conversation I could imagine that at least one or two owned guns (maybe one or two had a gun with them) and believed that they could protect themselves in the case of a threat. Then I thought about this scenario: suppose some young man who had been fired by this Starbucks decided to bring his Glock or whatever semi-automatic weapon he had and walked in the door and opened fire. By the time the men who had guns reached for them they would probably be either dead or critically wounded. Then the shooter walked outside and killed himself. So much for protection.
For those who continue to claim that we need guns to protect themselves and continue to talk about the Second Amendment and other nonsense I have one thing to say: go tell this to the parents of those children.
Posted in Blog, Social Justice
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