May 2012

Gun power

By David Grant Long

On any given month, there is almost bound to be at least one mass shooting in the good old land of the Second Amendment. The latest of these – or maybe not by the time this is published – involved a rabbi and some kids at a school in Oakland, Calif., but it could have been, and eventually will be, anywhere and everywhere in the USA.

There are also, of course, one or two blastings by pistol or long gun that are sensational enough to deserve print and electronic homage because they involve a celebrity or unusual circumstances. Then there are several barely-worth-mentioning gang- and drug-related snuffings and many more plain old crimes of passion committed by jealous lovers and furious neighbors that are much too commonplace to bother to report except locally.

However, it is the mass shootings that draw the biggest audiences – the most press attention and mouth-and-eye-watering commentary on how awful prominent people – especially politicians – feel for the families of the victims. I’ll bet if you took a poll of Congress, you could not find one esteemed member that didn’t feel absolutely horrible that all these people had been gunned down. Many probably pray for them before slipping between their silk sheets.

The media attention generally is in direct proportion to the number slain, although other factors can account for the short-lived national attention as well (e.g., were they members of some peace-loving group such as the Amish?).

At any rate, when an unusually large number of victims gets involuntarily laid to rest, the event is covered on a continuous basis by the cable-news channels. Reporters endlessly repeat the latest tidbits about what is known to that point. Helicopters hover. Crowds watch from a respectful distance. Small memorials of flowers and other objects of sympathy are left.

Public officials hold “news conferences” to decry the “senseless shootings” while their flacks write longer, noncommittal statements for nice clean quotes in the press.

But the idea underlying it all must be that the killings make no sense and were clearly the work of deranged people. In other words, they couldn’t be helped because the shooter was so far beyond the realm of reason, no sane argument could have dissuaded him from acting as he did.

It was just one of those things.

One odd aspect of these mass shootings is how often they become lefty-righty political fodder, yet without any actual serious discussions about stricter gun control by federal legislators who could make it happen tomorrow. You know, those fat-assed pigs who feed from the federal trough in Washington while assuring constituents they are working themselves to the bone looking out for their welfare.

Yes, they could, by such simple measures as eliminating the sale of large-capacity magazines for semi-automatic weapons and/or the sale of such weapons themselves, prevent lots of deaths, and there are numerous other ways such “senseless” (ahem) deaths could be stopped as well.

But forget about it. None of this is ever going to happen.

Firearms regulation is, in reality, off the table in a nation where there are thousands of fatal shootings annually (far more per capita than in nations with reasonable controls), where there are a slew of police shootings with cop-killer bullets that penetrate Kevlar vests, where it is easier to buy a gun than to get a driver’s license, and where so-called movie “entertainment” often involves gun violence so graphic it is repulsive.

How things got this way and why they are likely to be unchanged is not hard to figure out. It amounts to billions, or trillions depending on how you want to count, being made by the guns-and-ammo trade, and the political cowards of both parties in our government whose elections are funded by these special-interest groups, who quietly go along with whatever legislation is written by these interests to protect, preserve and enhance their fortunes.

According to a recent editorial in the Idaho State Journal, the Ruger Corporation, which makes small, easily concealable handguns, saw its profits increase more than 800 percent from the sale of these weapons over the three-year period since 2008, when Obama was elected and the NRA and similar groups began broadcasting rumors that he was plotting to take everyone’s guns away. (Ruger also promised to donate $1 from each sale of these concealed-carry handguns to the NRA. A nice cozy relationship that benefits both.)

Industry-wide, there is an enormous amount of money made selling guns, ammunition and all the accoutrements – laser sights, quick-release concealed-carry holsters, special bullets that do this or that – the list is endless and manufacturers and importers are making a killing. (Pun intended.)

In fact, a gun is a simple tool, intended to do one thing only, and a reliable handgun should reasonably cost 50 bucks or so, about the same as a good electric drill or ratchet set. (And that’s all a gun is – a tool that can come in handy in certain situations, but not something that should become the center of a cult of worshippers more fanatic than those religious sects who wear baggy clothes and believe laughing is sinful.)

The industry employs front groups like the NRA to spread propaganda such as the aforementioned myth about Obama taking their guns away, so they better stock up now, and not just a handgun or two, mind you, but a whole arsenal with plenty of bullets, grenades, dynamite and some plastiques.

Radio talk-show nuts enthuse on a regular basis about how dag-nab much fun it is to go varmint-hunting (as Mitt Romney claims he did in one of the most pathetic “See, I’m just a regular guy” attempts ever recorded. It is worth a visit to YouTube.). Or to hunt “big game,” or wildcats, ducks or raccoons, all of which requires specialized equipment on which even more huge profits are made. The hosts — stoking the paranoia already rampant in our society — discuss in great detail the relative merits of the Glock over the Smith and Wesson or whatever, and how this or that bullet will stop in his fiendish tracks a 300-pounder coming at your wife, and how much safer you are with a gun, and how only a fool wouldn’t have one.

Many states recently passed “license to kill” (a more accurate name for “stand your ground”) laws allowing good citizens to shoot down someone who looks at them cross-eyed. These laws were pushed by a well-funded rightwing group known as ALEC, which most of us, including me, had never heard of until all the fuss about that pesky black boy shot down by a do-gooding neighborhood watchman, who thought the dark-skinned teenager seemed out of place in a gated community and ended up shooting him through the heart with the 9mm that he had a permit to carry. ALEC includes such national institutions as Walmart, which just happens to sell both guns and ammo.

Similar incidents of whites shooting what they believed to be suspicious darker-colored bipeds are rife throughout the Deep South and although it makes a few citizens uncomfortable, the consensus seems to be they were probably up to no good anyway.

Overall, those sorts of incidents, aside from increasing the personal fame and fortunes of activists like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, do little to change the gun policies in a nation where there recently was not enough support in Congress to extend the ban on large-capacity assault rifles, nor to ban the oversized magazines used by mass killers to mow down dozens at a time – despite the specter of a former congresswoman turned mentally-impaired object of sympathy who was wounded by one of those loonies.

Look:

There are always going to be violenceprone nut cases.

There are always going to be slick-talking politicians who block any attempts to have the country adopt reasonable gun regulations.

And there are, apparently, always going to be sheep like us who keep re-electing these hypocritical, cynical bastards, every bit as mentally ill as the ones who commit the “senseless” shootings in the first place.

We can’t deny, after all, that the arms industry has been a great part of the economic recovery since Obama has been elected, making money hand over fist that will help him (indirectly and discreetly, of course) and the majority of Congress win re-election so they can wax eloquently on the next “senseless” mass shooting.

Maybe it’s time to update the old “duck and cover” grade-school instructional videos of the ‘50s, the one that were supposed to keep us safe from Soviet atomic bombs.

Only now it would be how to duck and cover when one of our own mad men cuts loose.

David Grant Long writes from Cortez, Colo.