In Brief—A call to arms regarding the out-of-control proliferation of guns and violence in America.
Shoot the Bastard—
The burly cowboy in jeans and leather chaps pulls the loaded shiny six-shooter from its holster and lays it on the counter while paying the unsmiling woman for his purchase. Ka-thump! Curious about the casual handling of the pistol, I ask the cowboy if the open display of guns is permitted here in Arizona. Proudly—almost boastfully—he replies in the affirmative. Must be some nasty critters out there on the range.
According to Politico, the United States leads the world in firearm ownership with about one gun per person. That’s more than 310 million guns. Serbia, recently at war, is not even close in second place. Well-regulated Sweden, a hunting society, is in 9th place with less than a third of America’s level of gun ownership. In terms of the states, Arizona is third in America.
In a 5-4 decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008), written by ultra-conservative Justice Scalia, the United States Supreme Court conservatives held that the citizens have the right to possess firearms for the common defense. They left some wiggle room for local governments to enact reasonable laws restricting that right. Immediately afterward, particularly in Republican-dominated states, guns and limitations on restrictions have proliferated. Gun control advocates have proceeded cautiously. Too cautiously, I believe.
The profitable small arms industry is flacked by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that praised the decision and supported restrictions like not allowing doctors to ask about guns in the home. In the last thirty-five years, the NRA has gone from a reasonable hunting organization to a radical supporter of hands-off legislation that allows almost anything. Feel threatened? Kill the S.O.B.
Until 1977, the NRA supported gun control laws and did not see government as the enemy. An internal coup by radicals against the leadership, based to a substantial degree on racism, led to the NRA becoming the take-no-prisoners organization we see today. Does “Stand your ground” sound familiar?
A friend in Colorado, an avid hiker, park volunteer and witness to the proliferation of guns there, affirms the arming of America. The New York Times describes the free-fire zone that blankets the wilderness—even county parks—since the Heller decision. Macho gun-carrying enthusiasts swagger into parks, into the hikers’ domain leaving behind huge quantities of shot-up trash…and death. As described in detail in the Times, one of their bullets has killed an innocent hiker in Colorado. Even the Editorial Board of the Times has decried the problem. That’s what the Supreme Court conservatives and the NRA have unleashed on America.
What did the Supreme Court choose to overlook by putting guns in everybody’s hands? The Second Amendment refers to the states allowing “militias” to be armed. A reading of history shows that in order to pass the constitution, the negotiators had to permit the southern states to allow their white militias to keep the slaves in line. In order to get the southern slave-holding states to agree on a constitution, the negotiators had to permit the southerners to arm their white “militias.” It’s all there in the history books. Instead, the Supreme Court conservatives chose to overlook history in favor of arming ordinary citizens. Republican politicians in black robes.
What about the small arms and ammunition industries that grow immensely richer? They are delighted that the NRA propagandizes the populace into arming themselves. Their profits have soared. We focus on the NRA but forget about the manufacturers like Smith and Wesson and Ruger that earn huge profits from NRA’s propaganda. Thus, the NRA is shilling for the manufacturers. While the NRA is fatter than ever, it’s the big gun manufacturers who rake in the big dough.
The Cast of Characters and the Solution—
The players in this wild west drama are the common sense gun control organizations like the Brady Campaign, many police organizations, some politicians, local gun control groups and responsible gun owners, the “good guys.” On the other side are the arms manufacturers, the NRA, ALEC and a few gun owners who have been thoroughly propagandized by the NRA, the “bad guys.” The “good guys” want reasonable regulation; the “bad guys” want no regulation and to put at least one gun in every home and school in America. So far, the “bad guys” are winning.
Newtown didn’t do it. Aurora didn’t do it. The slaughter continues and guns proliferate even though the reasonable “good guys” vastly outnumber the “bad guys.” Why? The easy answer is that weak-kneed politicians are frightened of the power of the NRA. The real answer is that the reasonable voter has been absent or reluctant to pull back the curtain to reveal that the Wizard is powerless against an aroused public.
It’s past time to speak out loudly for reasonable and rational regulation of guns, to remove weak-kneed politicians, to put the evil genie back in the bottle. It’s up to all of us. Flex your muscles, speak out, VOTE…and, for crying out loud, know what you are voting for.