Posts Tagged With: NRA

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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