Posts Tagged With: gun control

ODDS AND ENDS (THAT ARE MOSTLY ODD)

Pope Francis recent visits to the Americas and to the U.S. were considered overwhelming successes by most people in this country as well as those throughout the hemispheres. But there is a large contingent in the U.S., of mainly Republicans and other far-right-wing dingbats that were quite upset about many of the Pope’s remarks and, accordingly, bad-mouthed his actions. The Pope shockingly seemed to put all his emphasis on helping the poor, and his worst heresy was actually advocating to save the ecology of this planet from further desecration. My God, what was he thinking. Surely he must have known that that when Jesus walked the Earth he wore nothing but the finest silk robes embroidered with gold and expensive jewels such as diamonds and rubies. That he and his entourage would only stay in the most elite 5-star hotels. And that his preaching and sermonizing were almost always before corporate CEOs, Boards of Directors, and Hedge Fund Managers where he invariably advocated for trickle-down economics and tax cuts for the rich. No, you say? It was just the opposite? That he and his disciples wore mainly rags and slept in open fields or where some follower could provide them with sleeping quarters. That his sermons always seemed to focus on assisting the poor. Imagine that. It might explain why this pope (unlike previous ones) is so emphatic about identifying and being critical of the worst abuses of our capitalistic form of economics which so heavily tilts toward the rich. Who knows? Some people living outside of right-wing looney-tunesville might actually take his words to heart.

With yet the latest atrocity being committed at a rustic Oregon school by, once again, another deranged individual, the subject of gun control, as always, springs to the forefront. President Obama and other assorted liberals take to the podiums to, predictably decry our appalling lack of gun control legislation, while the National Rifle Association and other gun nuts say the problem is too few guns, and that any tightening of gun control laws would be a violation of their infamous Second Amendment rights. And, sadly, it’s the gun nuts that always seem to carry the day. But there is one set of statistics that need to be pounded into American heads if any progress is to be achieved. At 320 million, the U.S. comprises less than 5% of the world’s population. Yet more than 50% of all the guns that exist on this planet reside in the U.S. That explains it all. The U.S. is awash with guns so that the ensuing chaos that gun proliferation causes, comes as no surprise. A new book on gun control, just out, refers to this situation as the “wellspring of crazy.” It’s hard to top that phrase for imagery.

The main problem here is that the U.S. has a gun fetish. A fetish is a compulsion so strong, that most people that have them cannot rid themselves of it. For example, there are many sexual fetishes such as bondage, sado-masochism, spanking, etc. that are used in role playing. Most are harmless and rarely lead to adverse consequences. But a gun fetish is something else. It becomes a total exercise in fanaticism as shown in the expression of many gun owners that, “if they come after my gun, they’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers.” The American gun fetish probably began when the West was being settled, and the settlers had to often fight off Indian raids or outlaws. Those threats are now gone, but the fetish lives on.

Gun advocates like to point out that those jurisdictions that do have strict gun control laws, like New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago, often have the highest crime and murder rates to go along with those laws. They aver that no matter how strict gun laws are, the bad guys will always be able to get their hands on these weapons. But that argument is superfluous. It does little good for one place to have strict gun laws, if one can merely take a short ride into the next jurisdiction and buy all the guns he or she desires. If Illinois has strict gun control, a short hop over to Indiana will remedy that situation. To be effective gun control must blanket the entire country. One other oddity to those killings in Oregon. One of those murdered was a professor that had relocated to these Oregon boondocks from N.Y. City. I’m sure he felt he was getting out one of largest crime hubs of the country, into the safety of some backwater Rubesville. Funny how fate is always determined to play out the cards it’s holding.

One last item. In the on-going, never-ending war in Afghanistan, the U.S. has just bombed a hospital run by the humanitarian organization known as “Doctors-Without-Borders.” Over 20 people were killed in this brainless, mind-boggling act of ineptitude and carelessness. We could chalk it up to collateral damage, as the war advocates proclaim. I would sooner chalk it up to futility of war in general, however, and U.S. impotence in defeating the Taliban thugs and serial killers we’ve been fighting against-14 years later since we began that war. Although there undoubtably have been wars since the beginning of mankind, the first war recorded in history occurred over 4700 years ago. Not much has changed since then, except for maybe the weaponry.

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THE SCALES OF INJUSTICE

Sir William Blackstone, the famed British jurist, stated in 1766 that-“Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” That concept was woven into British criminal law, and then, of course, was interjected into U.S. criminal proceedings. When the U.S. Constitutional Convention met during the summer of 1787, nearly every delegate was familiar with Blackstone’s commentaries and the principles of English common law. Ben Franklin decided to up the ante by a decimal point by stating that 100 guilty should go free rather than one innocent suffer. Hence, our Constitution and all subsequent criminal statutes were geared toward preventing the guilty conviction of someone who was, in fact, innocent. Which, naturally made it that much more difficult to convict the guilty. After all, who wants to send an innocent man or woman to prison if they didn’t commit the crime. Nevertheless, innocents have incarcerated, and sometimes given the death penalty, while many of the guilty wind up with a free get-out-of-jail-card.

There are so many things wrong with our so-called criminal justice system that it’s hard to know where to begin. As I wrote in my last posting, if you possess the financial resources to hire a crack legal defense team, it’s highly likely you can avoid conviction, no matter how guilty you may be. Especially if you’re up against a weak prosecuting attorney. On the other hand, if you’re poor, as most defendants are, and have to settle for someone from the dregs of the legal community to defend you, there’s a good chance that your goose is cooked. No matter how innocent or guilty you may be. Especially, if you’re unfortunate enough to face a reasonably competent prosecuting attorney. That’s why there are lawyers out there doing pro bono work trying to free innocent victims of our so called justice system.

One such group is called the Innocence Project, which was started in 1992 by two high profile defense attorneys, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. It’s a national organization dedicated to exonerating those that have been wrongfully convicted, usually through the use of DNA testing. Many of these victims of our justice system were poor, forgotten and had used up all other avenues of legal relief. They were usually convicted in a time before DNA testing was available, but items remained in the case files that contained DNA. In numerous cases, when that DNA evidence was later tested, the guilty were found to be innocent. Some of those victims were incarcerated for over 20 years before DNA testing became available to set them free. So much for letting 10 or 100 guilty go free rather than locking up one innocent.

One of the flaws in our justice system is the notion of trial by juries of one’s peers. Really? If you are brought to trial, do you really want to have Brenda, who works behind the perfume counter at Macy’s, sitting on the jury and deciding you fate. Or Fred, who hauls heavy cargo off ships down at the docks. Aside from the fact that one’s peers usually are clueless about the machinations of the justice system, and can be easily bamboozled by the more effective attorney, is it really wise to have juries populated with people that have no knowledge of the law. Wouldn’t it be better to have professional juries who know the ins-and-outs of the criminal justice system, rendering impartial opinions. I have always believed that a jury consisting of legal professionals could render a much more accurate decision.

Of course, as I wrote last time, it appears to be easier to get a not guilty verdict in high profile cases when the defense can hire some hot-shot lawyers.  Besides the reasons that I previously wrote about, new statutes have also come into play. About 20 states have now passed “stand-you-ground” laws, which essentially states that one can throw common-sense out the window, and thereby get away with murder. Stand- your- ground means that when confronted by someone that intends to inflict bodily harm, instead making a safe retreat (if one is available), one can stand there and duke it out with the bad guy. Including a shoot-out similar to the gun fight at the OK Corral. Although not used by the defense, the stand-your-ground law in Florida was included in the the judge’s instructions to the jurors in the George Zimmerman trial. I’m sure it entered the jury’s thinking process in deciding to acquit. After all, why should George Zimmerman have had to retreat to his truck, when he could stand his ground and shoot an unarmed teenager.

What’s next. I’m waiting for the first state to enact a “Shoot-First-And-Ask-Questions-Later” piece of legislation. Perhaps it will be Wyoming, or Idaho, or maybe Alabama or Georgia. That annoying next door neighbor still in the habit of blocking your driveway with his truck? Bam. Shoot first and ask questions later. It’s all part of our gun culture. Gun ownership in this country has now moved beyond the point of being a fetish, to being an out-and-out addiction. Like a heroin or cocaine addiction, or worse. We’re supposed to be having a hard time in this country financially; yet there always seems to be money available for ordinary people to acquire some very expensive hardware and ammo. How hard can financial times be when gun stores can’t stock enough guns and bullets to satisfy their customers. And of course, any political movement toward sane gun-control laws has long been destroyed by the NRA and its millions of followers. It appears that when sanity comes up against paranoia, it’s sanity that gets blown away.

Australia has enacted some very strict gun control legislation, and has seen their homicide rate drop to less than half of what it is in the U.S. A case where rationality actually triumphed over insanity. But don’t look for that happening here, anytime soon. The gun addiction is just too powerful.

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SOLUTIONS

As far as the evolutionary process is concerned, man is still fairly low-down on the totem pole. While the planet is billions of years old, and the first humans came on the scene millions of years ago, the concept and actuality of civilizations came into being maybe, only about 10,000 years ago. Evolution in the development of civilized behavior takes a very long time. I can’t help but think that historians a thousand years from now will look back and say- a thousand years ago, in the 21st century, man was still so primitive and barbaric, that people actually ate the flesh of dead animal carcasses. How cannibalistic. And they also constantly engaged in the ultimate failure and folly of the human condition-which would be war. (That’s, of course, presuming that we don’t destroy all life on the planet before the 31st century, a very definite possibility.) So as I said, we still have a lot of evolving to go through to get beyond the prime motivators of human behavior in today’s world; which are fear, paranoia, greed and lust for power. Despite this, I thought I would take a stab at proposing some rational, sensible, and pragmatic solutions to some of the overwhelming problems facing us today.

Take guns. Please. (Taken from Henny Youngman’s opening line in all his comedy acts- Take my wife. Please.) As I wrote previously, if civilized society was thinking rationally, the only guns in existence would belong to the military and law enforcement officials. Who else needs guns? Hunters, who, in slaughtering defenseless animals treat these animals as if they were inanimate objects, instead of living creatures whose desire for life is just as strong as humans? While hunting might have been justified centuries ago as a means of putting food on the table, such is not the case in this day and age. Hunters don’t kill animals for food anymore. They do it for “sport.” Instead of being benefactors and protectors of the animal kingdom, humans are too often their slaughterers. There are a lot of good people out there working very hard to protect animals, especially endangered species such as elephants. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of bad people who continue to slaughter elephants for their ivory tusks, as well as, just the “sport” of it. When we recognize that animals are not inanimate objects, but living creatures that strive to maintain their existence every bit as much as we the people do, maybe then, mankind can shift from a killing to a benefactor status. After that, mankind might even evolve away from being meat eaters, and put slaughterhouses out of business.

People will say they also need firearms for protection. After all, there’s a very nasty  criminal element out there just waiting to rob, rape, pillage and kill if one is unarmed. And you can’t count on the police because more often than not, they will show up after the fact, when the damage has already been done. Which is all true. However, this is where the fear and paranoia set in. Gun owners will refuse to be dis-armed because they’re afraid that the events of any morning could result in another shoot-out at the OK Corral. Yet only a small percentage of the population is ever a crime victim. And the vast majorities of these crimes are simple robberies. Yes, people will be murdered, women will be raped, and the mentally unhinged will perpetrate mass killings like the recent one in Connecticut. But those are still the exceptions to the rule. The vast majority of the population will never fall victim to a crime. That’s why despite the wide-spread proliferation of guns, more than half the population in the U.S. are not gun-owners. And even if  one owns firearms and get into a shootout with some low-life, there’s no guarantee that the victim will prevail. Especially since the criminal will likely have more experience with the use of weaponry.

The vast, wide-spread proliferation of guns in this country makes it all the more easy for criminals to undertake their nefarious deeds. There’s an estimated 300 million guns in circulation in the U.S. which makes it that much easier for those bent on being a professional criminal to thrive in their chosen profession. After all, why pay black market prices for weaponry under risky circumstances, when one can just waltz into Wal-Mart, or any other gun establishment, and pay lower prices under safe conditions. The feeble background checks that may be required are hardly a hinderance. And even these aren’t required if you buy at gun-shows or from a private party. Yes, even with strict gun-control, if a criminal is absolutely determined, he or she will likely be able to obtain firearms in the black-market. Or steal them from gun-owners. But we don’t have to make it so much easier for them with the widespread proliferation that currently exists. However, even modest proposals for gun restriction or control are usually met with incredibly fierce opposition from the fear and paranoia populace. And, of course, leading the charge against even modest gun control is the good old NRA, perhaps the most unsavory large organization this country has experienced since the KKK.

Well, when I started writing this piece, I hadn’t intended to make it all about gun control. I guess I got a little carried away with the topic. I mean, there’s a vast scope of very serious world problems that require urgent solutions as well. Perhaps topics for another blog. (I can only write so much at one setting. That “senior thing” again.) In a sense, however, what I addressed today was really not about guns, but about where we are as a society on the evolutionary stage. Still pretty far down, it seems. Still making bad, irrational and dysfunctional decisions based on fear, greed, paranoia. And in the case of world leadership, on a never-ending lust for power. I guess we’ll have to wait another thousand years or so, and see if mankind is capable of evolving to a higher, more rational level.

 

 

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GUNS AND BIBLES

Barbra Streisand, when she used to sing for a living instead of making crappy movies, had a hit record whose lyrics went something as follows: “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage; you can’t have one without the other.” Well, it seems to me that what also goes together like a horse and carriage, are guns and bibles. (Leave aside, for the moment, that one will rarely, if ever, come into contact with a horse and carriage in this day and age.) I have always puzzled over the fact that a huge portion of the religiously fundamental populace also has an overwhelming affinity to arm themselves to the teeth, usually with racks of handguns and rifles. I guess it all stems from that passage in the New Testament which describes how Jesus carried an AK-47 with him when he went to deliver the sermon on the mount. Just in case some unruly ruffians in the crowd had got out of hand. But I suspect that the religiously pious among us, arm themselves for much the same reason that they pray to God. They fear if they didn’t pray, and show due homage, God would crush them like a bug. And in the case of guns, they also let the full spectrum of delusion and paranoia take firm hold. After all, if they weren’t armed, criminals are just waiting out there in the streets to break into their houses and rob them blind, and then shoot them for good measure. Or worse, the big, bad Government can hardly wait to disarm them, and then ship them off to concentration camps for being troublemakers. Thus, when so much discourse is spilling forth these days on gun control and second amendment rights, I thought it would be useful to look at the facts, and reality as it actually exists.

The rate of homicides by guns in this country, according to the latest statistics, is 3.6 people per one hundred-thousand population. (And maybe, if that six-tenths of a person fully grew up, he or she could have also avoided homicide.) Do the math. That’s an incredibly low percentage, especially in a country where guns flow like the River Ganges. In countries that have strict gun control laws, like Britain or Australia, the rate of homicide is less than one person per one-hundred thousand population. Also keep in mind that certain types of human behavior increase or decrease the risk of being gunned down. If you decide that criminal enterprise will be your field of endeavor, of course, you will likely increase the risk of untimely death. So will borrowing money from the Mafia and not being able to pay it back, or frequently interacting with drug cartels. On the other hand, if you’re like most middle-class or affluent Americans, and live in mostly safe neighborhoods, your risk of homicide probably drops to less than one in a hundred-thousand. In fact, the rate of suicide by gun, is almost double the rate of homicides. Obviously, the easy availability of guns makes it so much easier to succeed if one is harboring suicidal thoughts.

Of course, none of these statistics are of any comfort to grieving loved ones, when random lunatics go on a shooting spree and murder scores of people. As they did in Columbine, and Arizona (the Gabby Giffords shooting), and Colorado, and most recently in Connecticut. And, of course, it’s these incidents that have resulted in calls for greater gun control, and correspondingly, for vociferous opposition from the National Rifle Association and other like-minded gun advocates to any form of gun restriction. They cite the second amendment as giving everyone the right to bear arms. But no rights are absolute. The first amendment gives us the right of free speech. But as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes noted decades ago, this doesn’t include the right to cry “fire” in a crowded movie theater, when, in fact, there is no fire. Also try verbally plotting to kill your annoying next door neighbor and see how fast that will land you in the clink when the plot is discovered. The right to bear arms doesn’t mean I can acquire and roll down the street in a Sherman tank, or put surface-to-air missiles on my front lawn. Ted Nugent, a so-called rock singer who was washed up by the late 1980s, likes to publish pieces saying that the Government “will have to pry my gun from my cold, dead fingers” if it tries to dis-arm him. He likes to show how macho he is by blowing the heads off defenseless animals when he’s out hunting. Kind of reminds me of the images in the 2008 campaign, of Sarah Palin shooting defenseless animals from a helicopter in Alaska. So between the fierce opposition from millions of hunters and gun rights advocates, and organizations like the NRA, don’t hold your breath waiting for meaningful gun control laws to be enacted anytime soon. The GOP, realizing that “thars gold in them thar hills” in the form of millions of supporters and voters opposing any type of gun control, has always taken an anti-control stance. Since Republicans control the House, I can’t see needed-legislation being enacted.

My own point of view is that no one should posses firearms except the military and the police. Anyone else having a gun should be subject to a mandatory 10 year prison sentence. Being a realist, however, I know that’s never going to happen in my life-time. Some countries like Australia have come close to that, and have seen dramatic plunges in the rates of both homicides and suicides. But it’s way too rational for it to become a reality in the U.S. As I’ve written before- violence is as American as cherry pie. (Not my wording, but a concept I agree with.) We have a long history of having a gun mentality which has grown into a gun fetish. It has coarsened our society, and who we are as a people. And as long as anyone, even a lunatic, can walk into Wal-Mart and buy all the guns and ammo he needs to carry out a murderous rampage, we can probably expect more tragedies like the one we all just experienced in Connecticut.

 

 

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AS CHERRY PIE

As I’m sure all of you know, the 1960s was a turbulent time in American politics and society.  Various  protest movements were organized against what were considered the two worst evils in America at the time – segregation and other forms of racial discrimination against blacks, and the seemingly endless and bloody war going on in Viet-Nam. Huge protest demonstrations were taking place across the landscape against both these twin plagues; some peaceful, such as the civil rights marches led by Martin Luther King, and some not so peaceful such as the activities of the black panthers. One of the leading spokesman for the black panthers was a man with the nom de plume of H. Rap Brown, who often spoke eloquently about social injustice, but, unfortunately, often advocated a propensity to engage in violent acts to overcome these injustices. While I disagreed with much of what H. Rap Brown advocated, (he’s currently in jail serving a life sentence for murder, for those of you that are further interested in his story,) one statement he made, I thought, hit the nail squarely on the head. He said: “Violence is as American as cherry pie.” Sadly, the events in Connecticut last Friday proved out the validity of that statement.

The mass shootings in that public school in Connecticut were just the latest in a series of murderous events going back more than a dozen years to the tragic loss of life at a public school in Columbine. There was even a greater loss of life when a deranged individual went on a crazed shooting spree at Virginia Tech just a few years back. More recently, let us not forget the lunatic that shot up a movie theater in Colorado causing more loss of life, nor the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Gifford along with a bunch of other people, on a street corner in Arizona. There is no sense or rationale behind any of these murders, since they emanate from from individuals with deranged mindsets, living in a fog of delusion, and harboring unimaginable grievances. What is readily understandable, however, is how the massive proliferation of guns and bullets and other weapons in this country makes it so easy for those with crazed mental problems to obtain the necessary weaponry to wreck their vengeance, usually on the most innocent of all victims, young children. And because of that proliferation, 40 grieving parents in Connecticut, last Friday, experienced the worst day of their lives, and will live with a nightmare that no parent can ever really recover from. To say nothing of the families and loved ones of the school personnel that were also gunned down.

The gun culture in America, of course, goes back to colonial times. As settlers started pushing west from the 13 original colonies, huge hazards awaited them in the wilderness. There was, of course, wild animals to contend with, as well as the necessity of killing wild game in order to provide themselves with food. Then there were Native Americans who became a tad perturbed that these undocumented white folk, (illegal aliens,) had a propensity for taking away their native lands, and had the means to do it because of superior fire power. So occasionally, these natives whom we call Indians, would go on a rampage and kill the white settlers. Didn’t do them much good though, since we took just about everything away from them, and then threw them a few crumbs called Reservations to live on. There were also a lot of unsavory, nasty characters moving west with the settlers, and general lawlessness was initially experienced in most western states. So it was understandable that a gun culture grew across the U.S. A culture that usually didn’t exist in the European countries from whence most of these settlers came.

Today that culture has become a full fledged gun fetish. There are now federal, state and local police forces in every county from Cape Cod to Seattle WA. Thus, the reality of prevalent lawlessness is largely gone. And I don’t think we have very much to fear from Indian or wild animal attacks. Yes, of course, there are criminals and bad guys  all across the country, but that’s what the police are for. Yet a huge chunk of the populace believes that they have to be armed to the teeth, and ready for the next gunfight at the OK Corral. I have written before about how people went on a huge gun and bullet buying spree when Obama was first elected in 2008. The same thing happened this time around when Obama was re-elected. Gun stores couldn’t keep their shelves stocked, especially with bullets, as people didn’t hesitate to let their fear and paranoia run amok. After all, wasn’t it common knowledge that a re-elected Barack Obama would personally see to it that everyone’s guns were immediately confiscated? So a second gun buying spree has ensued. Even though buying a gun is not exactly like buying a candy bar. Guns run from about $500 a pop and up, well beyond the budgets of most average Americans, I would imagine.

Often it is the most religious fanatics and bible thumpers that have the greatest affinity for gun acquisition. Which makes a lot of sense. I guess they can always point to that passage in the New Testament that describes how Jesus was always packing heat when he went to deliver his sermons. And of course, no topic about guns in America would be complete without mentioning the National Rifle Association (NRA.) With membership in the tens of millions, the NRA has enormous political clout. They have managed to thwart just about every attempt at gun control all across the land, and have caused the defeat of politicians who had advocated for gun control. They, of course, never cease pointing out that that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution give our citizens the unfettered right (in their minds) to “bear arms.” Since the constitutional wording says “arms” and not “guns,” I wonder if this gives me the right to acquire a howitzer and put it on my front lawn. Then I can blast away at that annoying guy I keep running into in the gym, that lives about a mile away from me. In other words, uncontrolled weapons acquisitions are insane; but neither party is willing to take on the NRA and enact some semblance of gun control sanity.

These days, just about anyone can walk into Wal-Mart or any other store that sells weaponry, fill out a few forms, wait a few days, and then have unlimited access to purchasing any amount of firepower they desire and can pay for. No matter how crazy or delusional they may be. We’ll see if the latest tragedy in Connecticut will change that policy, or whether the NRA will still successfully destroy any attempt at gun control and sanity in this country.

 

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THE ASCENT OF EVIL

Shortly before his death in 2007, writer Norman Mailer in one of his last interviews, stated that he believed that “evil was on the ascent.”  Worldwide, according to Mailer, the forces of evil were triumphing over the forces of good. Judging by recent events, and going far, far back into history, who can deny the validity of his statement. The horror the world has just witnessed in Colorado is but the latest example of evil spreading over the globe like a deranged but insidious blob. About a week and a half before the Colorado slaughter, another insanely murderous young man got on a bus in Bulgaria that was filled with young Israeli tourists going to the beach for a holiday, and detonated a bomb that killed six people. Supposedly a terrorist attack arranged by Iran to murder as many Jews as possible. As I’ve written before, a terrorist is just a serial killer looking to pile up more bodies. And the massacre in Colorado is almost one year to the date, that another lunatic in Norway went about the methodical process of slaughtering 77 people in a murderous rampage.

Of course, the murderous slaughters carried out by lone individuals is small potatoes compared to the activities of evil, brutal, government dictatorships that exist in far too many countries. In Syria, for example, the people’s efforts to bring down the tyrannical dictatorship of the Assad regime has resulted in in swift reprisals by the dictator’s military forces that have led to the killings of between an estimated 15-20 thousand people fighting for their freedom. The situation in Syria has been going on for over a year and has now developed into a full-fledged civil war, with unbelievable massacres and destruction of entire cities, but Basher Assad, a cold-blooded murderous dictator, refuses to give up power. The U.N. and world leaders, including our own, have routinely condemned the actions of the Assad regime, but refuse to take any action that would remove him from power. So Assad goes on slaughtering his own people, many of them unarmed civilian bystanders, while the rest of the word’s Gullivers look on as if helplessly pinned down by this despot, and take no action. In the latest developments, Assad is now threatening to use chemical warfare if the opposition appears to be achieving too much success. Won’t that be a joy.

Tyrannical despots rule many other countries besides Syria, but all have one thing in common. If there is any opposition to their regimes, the first impulse is to jail or murder the “troublemakers.” Freedom as we know it, doesn’t exist in places such as North Korea or Iran, or even in several countries in Latin America. It’s estimated that both N.Korea and Iran have murdered tens if not hundreds of thousands of their citizens who might have protested their dictatorships, while thousands more languish in their prisons, for simply advocating for free speech or press.  Iran also is the largest state sponsor of Islamic terrorism, mostly directed against Israel and the U.S., and is rushing ahead in a frenzy to develop nuclear weapons. Both presidential candidates have vowed to take action to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear bombs, but don’t hold your breath. Only military action can prevent that from happening. My reading is, that, whichever one is elected president will not have the fortitude to undertake such military actions, and the window of opportunity is rapidly closing. If we don’t go in there militarily by sometime before the middle of 2013, Iran will almost have nuclear bombs. And their hatred of Israel and the U.S. is so intense that they’re just crazy enough to use them. Of course N.Korea already has nuclear weapons so it’s something the entire world has to live with. A highly paranoid, fascist, tyrannical regime with the power to destroy the world as we know it. I’ve written before about the evils of fascism, and we call all witness them currently on display in both N.Korea and Iran.

We don’t have that kind of tyranny in this country, but we do have a penchant for violence and paranoia. Some author once said that violence is as American as cherry pie. He might have also said that the guns to commit such violence are as available as cherry pie. The murderous tragedies in the U.S., just going back about 15  years from Columbine to the latest in Colorado have all been made possible by the wide availability of guns, ammo, bomb making materials, etc. to just about any individual, sane or deranged. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, there was an immediate surge in gun and bullet buying throughout the country. Guns (which are not cheap by any measure) and ammo were flying off the shelves. Gun store owners couldn’t keep up with the demand. There was, apparently, a wave of paranoia and fear throughout a large chunk of the population, that a liberal Democrat would somehow take everyone’s guns away, and people would be defenseless. Let’s face it, this country has a gun fetish.

The source of that gun fetish is, of course, is the National Riffle Association(NRA) which wields enormous political clout. Both Republicans and Democrats running for every political office, from president on down to dog catcher, pays homage to the NRA. Its been said that Al Gore lost to George Bush in 2000, because the NRA promoted the idea that Gore would confiscate all private guns if elected. The NRA avidly believes that every adult should own at least one gun, if not more. So in even the poorest slums, almost every individual possesses firearms which cost at least several hundred to over a thousand dollars. Guns are as prolific in America as candy. Any attempted discussion of even modest gun control legislation is met with fierce opposition by the NRA. Hence, we have a society where guns are readily available to any nut-case who has any real or imagined grievance against any persons or organizations they feel did wrong by them. What better way to relieve these grievances than to start randomly shooting innocent, unarmed people. It’s so easy too, thanks to the wide availability of weapons.

As long as the the NRA is allowed to wield the huge clout it currently has, we can look forward to more Columbines or killings at the movies. We’ve got a big problem in this country  due to the wide availability of weapons and it’s not going to get any better until the population’s attitude toward gun control and distribution begin to change. That may be never, at least not in my lifetime.

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