14 June, 2016
It's All About the Guns (and Those Who Ignore Them)
There was a candle-light vigil in front of the US Embassy in Bangkok last night. I did not participate.
While I am touched by the outpouring of grief and support displayed by the Thai people who attended, I did not want to participate in a cathartic exercise that replaces my personal responsibility as an American to be part of the solution. I've seen plenty of vigils on TV over the last 24 hours. People lighting candles, leaving flowers and stuffed animals. Singing Kumbaya or Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Saying a prayer, and going home feeling like they have done their part to end the madness of gun violence. Absent the conviction to bring an end to mass murders, these public demonstrations of grief are pointless.
There have been, for centuries, mentally ill people, angry people, people confused about their sexual orientation, or harboring animosity towards people who are different than they are. Sometimes, these people resort to murder. Jesus was an early victim. John Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King and John Lennon were victims in our lifetimes. However, it has not been until the early 1980s that murder advanced to an industrial scale. Carl Robertson Brown shot eight people dead in a welding shop in 1982. Two years later, James Huberty slaughtered 22 in a MacDonalds in San Ysidro, California. In 1985, postal worker Patrick Sherill opened fire in a post office, killing 15, then himself, adding "going postal" to the American lexicon.
Fast forward to the 21st century and we are presented with Virginia Tech, Binghamton, Fort Hood, Seal Beach, Aurora Theatre, Newtown, the Washington Navy Yard and Sandy Hook. All of the shooters were born in the United States, and left a total of 141 dead. We pay attention to these mass shootings because of the alarming drama and scale of these crimes. Yet, these numbers are eclipsed by the thousands who die from guns one or two at a time. In 2015 a total of 13,286 people were killed with guns in the United States--only a small percentage of whom were suicides or by accident.
In the end, the staggering numbers of casualties cannot be blamed on people as much as they can be blamed on the availability of firearms. (I told you so in my December 2015 blog, following the last mass slaughter in California.) If the Pulse shooter had only a hand gun, and not a rifle capable of shooting 700 rounds a minute, many, many fewer people surely would have died.
The shootings at Pulse were an act of terror. However, the real terrorists are the NRA and most of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. If I sound like some kind of left wing wacko, consider this quote: "I do not believe in taking away the rights of the citizen for sporting, for hunting, and so forth, or for home defense. But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of the home." *
The only way that the slaughter is going to end is for American voters and taxpayers is to stand up and say "Enough!" Any candidate's position on increasing the minimum wage, overhauling campaign finance, equal pay for women, and our deteriorating environment should be factors in choosing who you vote for. So should re-thinking our attitude toward guns. Believe it or not, times have changed since the Second Amendment to the US constitution--the grandstand that gun-rights advocates rely on to justify endless murder--was adopted in December of 1791. Today we have inside plumbing, space travel, microwave ovens, contact lenses and the Internet, among other things. The British are not coming back, except as tourists. We have already killed off most of our indigenous, population. Fewer people believe in literal interpretations of the Bible. Homosexuals, minorities and women have achieved greater equality. And we have made advances in technology, society and mental health care. Rifles in 1791 discharged one lead ball at a time. The barrel had to be cleaned, re-packed with gunpowder and shot before it could be fired again. With a weapon from that era the Pulse shooter might have gotten off two or three shots before being assassinated by the patrons.
Some candidates in the current election cycle are drawing attention because of their promises to "shake things up." While I agree with the notion of turning things upside down (although I want nothing to do with the biggest lip-flapper running for POTUS), it is time to retire most of legislators in Washington, beginning with Republicans, particularly Rand Paul, Kelly Ayote, Rob Portman, Patrick Toomey, and, especially, John McCain. (You can see a list here.) Send them packing Fortunately, we can probably expect a lot from Donald Trump to make that dream a reality.
So what are you going to do about it? Light candle if it makes you feel better. But you also have a responsibility to get angry and do something about it. Vote angry. Donate to political campaigns that are anti-gun. Sign all the petitions you can find. Challenge the establishment. Shame the NRA on social media. That is the only way things are going to change.
* These were the words of Ronald Reagan.
Also of interest: http://bit.ly/28Kafpg