Earlier this month, I wrote a piece called “Another Poster Child for the NRA” in response to a horrific and disturbing account of a young police officer, in a small town in Wisconsin, who apparently went insane, out of jealousy, and killed his girlfriend, and several friends. As one who has the utmost respect for law enforcement, what I found so shocking was that it was a member of the force who committed this crime.
It was never my intention to rant against the National Rifle Association, or law enforcement, but instead call for a closer look at a national ethos which enables, and legitimizes, the use of weapons, and deadly force in lieu of dedicated problem solving.
No sooner did my piece appear than I was besieged with hate mail, most of which came from National Rifle Association members, some from law enforcement, and the military, all of whom mistakenly seemed to think that I was targeting them with my comments. To the contrary, it is the intellectual climate, rife with fear and prejudice, one that provides safe haven, and immunity, for paid assassins while locking up protestors who belong to Code Pink. This newfangled militarism makes one nostalgic for the culture of narcissism..
So, by way of rejoinder: for openers, no one in their right mind would blame any one person, or group, for the outrageous escalation in violence in American society, much of it involving hand guns, in recent years. About a decade ago, then President Bill Clinton said “Every single day there are 13 children who die from guns.” How many more children are dying from guns today? Yet, there hasn’t been any gun control legislation since 1994, and those who defend their right to bear arms are ostensibly unnerved by the prospect that their friends, the hunters-in-chief, are leaving town.
Why this egregious absence of legislation attempting to stem the proliferation of assault rifles, hand guns, and illegal firearms in the past several years? A virile, righteous, and omnipresent gun lobby has successfully managed to silence their opposition, as has a vice president who, while he may not have the best aim, is himself a devout hunter, and a foreign policy which caters to the hunter ethos. Silencers aren’t only being used for firearms; they’re now handy ways to stifle dissent, too.
Indeed, the gun lobby has never been in better shape in Washington than it has been under the tutelage of President George W. Bush, so not a peep has been heard from those whose custom it is to speak out against guns, and the rash of violence in our nation’s public schools; schools like Columbine, Virginia Tech, in our nation’s inner cities, cities like Compton, East Los Angeles, in our nation’s workplaces. We’ve not heard a peep from the usual suspects who would be active in speaking up for more stringent laws to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of our youngsters.
Increasingly, in a world in which the American flag has become synonymous with another four letter word “duck,” and yet another “bomb,” this is not time to mince words. These folks who equate what they think of as their constitutional empowerment have, for the past several years, had a free ride, but now that a changing of the guard is in sight, they cling to their illusions of entitlement like a leper clings to what little skin he has left. And, to parody the Dylan Thomas poem, it’s as if every gun-toting Tom, Dick, and Harry decided not to go “gentle into that night,” but to “rage, rage, against the dying of the might.”
The gun lobby has managed to exercise that might religiously, and faithfully, to quiet their opposition, over the past half dozen years, because they have been the vocal majority, but that may be about to change, and they may well lose their leverage once the hunters, and Bible-thumpers, leave town. And, faced with the prospect of another Clinton in the White House, and the real prospect of yet again having to defend their right to bear arms, those who extol the virtues of the Second Amendment while ignoring the First and Fourth Amendments may be scared, scared of losing their leverage, scared they may be slipping. Violent crime isn’t slipping, though.
We’re experiencing what may be called a renaissance in violent crime, and can anyone not ask how it is that a youngster in high school can amass an arsenal in his bedroom which would rival any one might expect to find in a bunker in Baghdad, and how it is that moms and dads are giving Johnny his first gun for Christmas, as well as access to the kind of cache that could decimate an entire schoolyard? Why does it take a shooting at Columbine, or Virginia Tech to wake people up?
No one is suggesting, for a moment, that even if guns were to be eliminated from the face of the earth, random, and heinous crime would disappear with them. Where there’s a will to do grave bodily harm, there’s always a way.
It isn’t use of a weapon, per se, but the abuse of weapons, in general, and the lack of oversight that requires our attention. It’s not an issue with an occasional bad apple, in law enforcement, that requires our attention, but a culture in which intellectual lassitude is a way of life. Anyone possessing even a modicum of reason, whether they be a member of the NRA, or the AARP, can see there’s a need for all of us to sit down and talk about the proliferation and abuse of legal and illegal firearms, and how to keep guns out of the hands of those who can least handle them, even if they’ve been deputized to do so.
If it’s true, as we hear, that "guns don’t kill people;" rest assured that ignorance does. Awareness, and education, are essential steps in the direction of finding a solution, not sweeping, under the rug, all those who dare to speak up in violation of a code of silence that is as outmoded as it is deadly.
From the beginning of time, the forces of darkness have somehow managed to overpower, and silence, the forces of light. This explains the phenomenon of extinction. And, if things continue at this rate, we, too, will be staring down the barrel of an existential shotgun. One can only hope that it isn’t loaded.