Here we are again (and again and again and again…[queue the refrain]…) in the aftermath of more mass murders in the Disunited States of Fear. I don’t need to rehash the numbers here of dead and wounded in the horrific back to back shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio last weekend.

In a country with a paralyzed and incompetent government, they’re simply more impersonal statistics to add to the archives of senseless violence that take place on an all too frequent basis in the USA. Unfortunately, there are real mothers, fathers, spouses, children, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends who are suffering at the moment, trying to come to terms with the loss of one or more loved ones.

In addition to the deaths, there are those whose physical wounds have forever changed their lives. Ask someone who’s seen the carnage caused by today’s brand of killing machines and they will tell you that being hit with high caliber ammunition causes traumatic damage to our flesh and bone bodies.

Despite the outpouring of public grief and demands for action, we’re hearing the same platitudes from the usual voices–our echo-loving serial Liar in Chief who foments division and hatred with every exhalation, a number of the Democratic candidates who are running for the nomination in 2020 and who are taking advantage of the media spotlight, as well as the few Republicans who aren’t hiding quietly behind closed curtains at home. Luckily for them, these two latest gun massacres took place conveniently after Congress had recessed for the month of August.

Not being in the Washington spotlight makes it much easier for these spineless creatures to hide until the media storm has passed. While their constituents should know where to find them, the ‘people’ are probably too distracted by back to school shopping–must have new bullet-proof backpacks for the kids–to bother phoning and raising hell with their elected representatives who swore an oath to work for the good of the country and its citizens.

US President and wife Melania who is holding an orphaned baby who lost both parents to the mass shooting at Walmart in El Paso, Texas last week. The photo was taken at University Medical Center where many of the wounded are recuperating. It sure looks like a campaign photo to me, complete with thumbs up! Wasn’t his trip to these mourning cities supposed to be about supporting the victim’s families? Shameful!!! Melania posted this on Twitter.

I’ll be the first to admit that gun violence in the USA is a complicated problem, but what’s absolutely clear to me (and a growing chorus of others) is that there are common sense (remember when that actually existed in the DSF?) measures that can be applied to this set of problems and to which many people on both sides of the legislative aisle agree. Things like passing legislation on a national level to enhance background checks and ban certain types of weapons and quantities of ammunition, improve mental health and counseling services for those in need while removing the stigma of mental illness and somehow begin to change the cultural narrative that drives young, disaffected males (who are often white and from middle income families) to commit such horrific acts against themselves and a society they appear to hate.

We need gun legislation on a national level

Oh yes, I can hear the ‘States Rights’ voices screaming now, but one of the major flaws in gun policy in the USA is a lack of coherent legislation from one state to another. The country is a confusing mix of gun regulations that range from the fairly strict laws of California to an almost complete lack of regulation in states such as Alabama.

We have national laws that are aimed at preventing ‘terrorism’–and these mass shootings are surely domestic terrorism–when the nation’s top law enforcement agency, the FBI, is called upon to carry out and assist local departments in the investigations that follow each incident. We’ve all witnessed how quickly the government can mobilize and enact laws to help protect citizens against international terrorism, so why are our elected officials so reluctant to tackle the specter of domestic terrorism?

Campaign contributions and heavy-handed lobbying from the NRA is one reason, but the constituents back in their home districts also play a major role here. Otherwise, those politicians who refuse to do anything that might help bring an end to this violence would be voted out of office.

Such discrepancies in laws allow a would-be assassin to simply cross a state line in order to purchase weapons that are deemed illegal in his own state. Assault-style weapons and large capacity (more than 10 rounds) magazines are banned in California, so the mass shooter at the recent Gilroy Garlic Festival in that state purchased his weapon and ammunition magazines across the state line in Nevada where it was legal for him to buy an AK-47 variant (the Soviet developed rifle copied widely) along with magazine clips containing 30 rounds of ammo each.

Where do we start

Improving mental health diagnoses, counseling, treatment and ending the stigma against those who seek treatment is something that should be funded as a priority in the USA, but it’s a long-term task. Likewise, changing the cultural environment that creates such damaged males in the first place is a serious dialogue that needs to begin now at all levels of public administration.

What do the males that attack co-workers, spouses or girlfriends and the anonymous public all have in common? They are all products of a broken culture where male masculinity on steroids is worshiped and those who can’t measure up are bullied and taunted. In this toxic environment, some young males succumb to the pressures and retaliate in the only way they can show power and domination–by buying guns and committing mass murder. Confronting this problem would not only help solve mass shootings, but it could also help prevent an epidemic of domestic abuse which often has an equally violent end.

While it’s easy to say that mental illness is the main cause of such atrocities, screening an entire population for those who might have a tendency to commit murder with such weapons is a huge feat indeed. This is where the kind of ‘real’ personal liberties that 2nd amendment rights advocates ignore could potentially be trampled on.

Since the mental health aspects of this phenomenon are far more difficult to decipher and control, it’s easier initially to focus on removing the weapons these damaged individuals use to create havoc in our society. And rightly so. We should take all the necessary steps to stop the carnage as soon as possible. We should do the things we can do now, while at the same time holding a national dialogue through town hall meetings and in academia on the broader ranging causes of gun violence.

In addition, the NRA and politicians must authorize the CDC to collect data on gun violence in the USA. In case our politicians don’t know, we need to inform them that the world of scientific inquiry often leads to solutions to our problems, but first researchers must be given permission for their studies. The lack of government research on this issue is crippling our ability to find solutions and speaks volumes about the power of money in American politics and the lack of real freedom of information and transparency allowed by the US Government.

Who needs an assault weapon in their garage?

While banning assault-style weapons and large capacity magazine clips isn’t a panacea and won’t end gun violence, it’s a major policy shift that would be a step in the right direction. When the Democrats controlled congress in 1994, they passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, a 10-year ban on such weapons and large capacity magazines. When the provisions expired in 2004, the Republican controlled congress chose not to renew the legislation, much to the glee of the NRA and weapons manufacturers.

Since that time, the numbers of those killed and wounded in mass shootings has increased. According to the Giffords Law Center, “A review of mass shootings between January 2009 and January 2013 by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that incidents where assault weapons or large capacity ammunition magazines were used resulted in 135% more people shot and 57% more killed, compared to other mass shootings.”

While hand guns are used in a much larger number of shootings, a review of past shootings from Sandy Hook in 2012 to Dayton in 2019 illustrates the increased carnage caused by rapid-fire weapons.

Photo of the weapon used in the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio last week. Released by the Dayton, Ohio Police Department. Note that the weapon was manufactured in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell’s home state.

The shooter in Dayton used a .223-caliber high capacity rifle and fired 41 shots in just 30 seconds, killing nine and wounding twenty-seven others before being killed by patrol officers. He also had 100-round drum magazines allowing him to shoot up to 100 rounds before having to pause to reload. In such an instance, bystanders didn’t have a chance to flee, nor did the nearby officers have an opportunity to take him down before he’d slaughtered so many innocent civilians. He shot 36 people in 30 seconds!

In El Paso, the shooter used a variant of the AK-47 to kill twenty-two and wound twenty-four victims, ranging in age from 15-90. It only took 6 minutes for the police to arrive and take his weapon.

Currently, nine states and the District of Columbia have laws banning large capacity ammunition magazines: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. All of these jurisdictions except Colorado and Vermont also ban assault weapons.

According to an analysis done by Michael Siegel, a professor at the school of public health in Boston University, states with high-capacity bans are less likely to experience a mass shooting.

Should anyone be allowed to buy such powerful weapons that clearly have no other purpose than to kill as many people, animals etc as possible in the shortest possible period of time? My feelings have long been that the human mind is far too fragile to be trusted with such powerful killing machines. Add mental illness, flaring tempers, drugs, alcohol and any other number of modern-day stresses, and we get a volatile mix that’s a prescription for disaster.

My personal connection to this debate

Some of you know that I was raised in a rural area of North Carolina, a southern US state that has its fair share of hunters and gun owners. I grew up around weapons and developed a great respect for their power. The guns my family owned would be labeled as vintage–a single shot .22 caliber rifle and a double-barreled shot gun. They were kept safely locked away unless my grandmother pulled them out for target practice, something that only happened periodically at family gatherings. Even then, it was about skill level and not killing and my grandmother usually was the most accurate shot of all. While my friends all went hunting for small game, I chose to not accompany them because I wasn’t interested in killing those same animals I watched and talked to when I’d go roaming in the woods.

Coming from such a background only makes me more aware that NO ONE outside the military or police force (and that’s debatable as well) needs to possess high-powered assault-style weapons with large capacity ammunition magazines. If a hunter needs that kind of rapid fire hardware, then they certainly aren’t a skilled outdoors man, nor are they safe to be around. So much for their macho image!

My father, who never hunted during my life time, had a small scar on his cheek where he’d been shot by friendly fire–a .22 caliber rifle–while hunting with friends during his youth. He was very lucky since a few inches difference in trajectory could have ended his life. If his friend had been using one of today’s assault-style weapons, my father wouldn’t have survived even given the fortunate trajectory of the bullet. His head would have been literally blow apart. These modern killing machines create a cavity, not a mere hole, in anything they contact.

I realize that some people want to stock up on weapons and ammunition in preparation for some sort of doomsday scenario where it will be them against…what? Their own police force? The US Military? Zombies? What’s the basis for their fear? Is enforcing their warped interpretation of the 2nd Amendment–at all costs–really worth so many innocent lives?

I suppose I just don’t get it, but from my point of view private citizens with arsenals of weapons and ammunition will do nothing to prevent violence, but instead will hasten day when the kind of societal breakdown and violence they’re envisioning becomes a reality.

peace~henry

Posted by Henry Lewis

Unconventional artist, writer, videographer and teacher. Personal Quote: It isn't easy being me ;-)

37 Comments

  1. Thank you, Henry, for speaking out. I agree completely.

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    1. Good god, that photo …. just horrendous. Great piece.

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      1. The whole circus is an embarrassment for the entire country.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks Jim. This is a tough battle–common sense against campaign dollars.

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  2. A much needed and informed analysis in the wake of these recent tragedies, Henry.

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  3. So well said..Henry.

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  4. Reblogged this on The Secular Jurist and commented:
    MUST READ!

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    1. Thank you Robert. I’m honored that you’re sharing my post. We have to pull out all the stops in order to turn the tide in Washington.

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      1. My pleasure, it’s a timely and well written editorial.

        Yes, we must pull out all the stops; but, I am concerned. I’m getting the sense out there that the news (i.e. mass shootings, Trump,, international tensions, climate change, etc.) has become so shocking that people are starting to tune it out. If true, that’s very unfortunate because we need all hands on deck right now.

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      2. I agree Robert. If we’re paying attention, we get bombarded by so much negativity daily that even well-intentioned folks are tuning out. You’re right to say we need all hands on deck at this moment–gun control, climate change, poverty/income inequality and displaced populations to name but a few national and global challenges. We must remain focused and do what we can to make a positive difference.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent! “States Rights” issue was settled at Appomattox a very long time ago!

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    1. The first time the states rights argument was used was when Southern states wanted to break treaties with Native Americans in order to steal their land. But under national law, only the US government can make or change treaties. The second time the states rights argument was used was in defense of slavery and those making the argument committed terrorism in starting a war by attacking the US government. So, exactly how is this history of states rights a defense of American values?

      States rights had its origins in the Articles of Confederation. And there is an interesting debate to be had about the unconstitutional nature of how the Constitution replaced the Articles. But the issue at the time was over localized democracy versus a national ruling elite. I don’t get the idea that right-wingers want states rights in order to ensure a more democratic society.

      Other than rationalizing authoritarianism, what are right-wingers advocating with states rights? And even if they wanted to make a principled argument for authoritarianism at the state level instead of the federal level, why do right-wingers keep pushing for authoritarianism at the federal level as well? The reality is the right-wing just likes violence, whether at the local level with armed militias or nationally with a police state and vast imperial military.

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      1. Thanks for the background info. It seems the idea of states rights is only pulled out of the dust bin of history when it’s convenient for certain groups. Thanks for commenting!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m curious about how replacing the Articles of Confederation (which was an abject failure due to its effectually weak central government) with the U.S. Constitution could be considered as “unconstitutional” since there was no federal constitution at the time. The Articles were only a loose agreement between the original thirteen colonies (which had not become states yet) whom bickered ceaselessly amongst themselves for the entire decade before the 1787 constitutional convention.

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    2. Hi Ron,

      Thanks for stopping by and for leading me to your blog as well!

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    3. Henry, you are a blogger of real quality! My voice is a bit muted of late but more will come. Thanks for traipsing along on my quixotic trail.

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      1. Happy to travel ur trail with u. Thanks for ur comments.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words.

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  6. Thank you for addressing this issue, Henry. When guns continue to enjoy more rights than people, we can expect more and more of such self-inflicted wounds to the body politic.
    Peace to you, too, brother.

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    1. Hi Rosaliene,

      I like your comment that ‘guns having more rights than people.’ What a bizarre time we live in. Peace to you, too, sister.

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      1. Bizarre, indeed, Henry.

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  7. Well-written and informative and common sense.

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  8. I agree with you. Change has to start somewhere and examining the gun laws is a great place to start. Our government in New Zealand was swift to introduce new gun laws after the Christchurch massacre, our 2nd only mass shooting.

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    1. Kudos to Kiwis and their government for having the guts to choose the best path for the country! Unfortunately American politicians are only beholden to mega-corporations.

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  9. The title is a very good description of our country today, not just in the area of gun violence, but of so many things. Very well written also.

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    1. I agree John. As expats living in South America, other American friends and I often use the Spanish term ‘estados desunidos’ to describe our country of origin. Enjoy your vacation!

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      1. Thanks, Henry. Will do my best!

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  10. God bless your energy to write such a long article … but who is listening! I despair … nothing will change I guess. Guns are a part of American culture as is good old commerce.

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    1. I share your feelings of despair Kevin. However, i will continue to speak out against the evil that is the NRA, as well as all the politicians who care more about being relected than they do about the lives of innocent people who are killed by weapons that have no place in the hands of civilians.

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  11. It would be really good if the U.S.A. would get this taken of.
    Canada tends to be a copycat of many things American. I see gun violence growing here in Toronto.
    Better to see an art movement, or something positive growing.

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    1. It’s a part of the sickness of American culture, and you’re right, the mentality does seem to be spreading along with the weapons which cross international borders quite easily.

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  12. Thank you for your excellent writing on this topic, Henry. First off, I would like to say before anyone jumps on me for supporting this or that issue/political party, etc., that I am totally A-political right now. That does not equate with apathy, believe me.

    This current situation we are in is not something that just happened yesterday. It has been in the making for many terms of many presidents. The politicians are not interested in serving FOR, BY, and OF the people; their interest is in how much money and power they can hold, and it is a very sick government in so many ways.

    I would like to believe that gun control (and I am afraid of guns despite one degree in Criminal Justice, and I am equally afraid of all the violence taking place today). However, any move in that direction will take us back to Prohibition times in the 20’s when liquor could be had at any speakeasy and the black market flourished. We are seeing this today with guns. Unfortunately, we have so many guns coming into the company from black markets it is unbelievable. And I don’t think we can stop that.

    The other issue is that guns do not shoot themselves. We have a culture that is so drugged and so apathetic to life, so confused, and so mentally ill and all the good things life stands for that I am not sure we can ever return to the state of life I once knew when I was a young girl (I will be in 78 in November, so I have lived a long time). We have people beating and torturing newborn babies and small children, men killing men and women and vice versa just because. There is no rhyme or reason to anything that is happening. I worked in the school district for years with special needs children as a substitute paraeducator, aid and teacher, and I have seen how the school districts ignore so many things that foretell of children that will grow up and become violent adults, not so much in the special needs category, but for certain in the so-called normal children as well. It’s a joke among children to bully other children until they end up committing suicide, or hurting other children or even their parents. And look how many teachers we have today who are sexually molesting children and teens in the school systems.

    And the issues are not just with children; it persists at all age levels. I was assaulted and severely bullied for my criminal justice attempts to rid another mobile home park where I lived of drug people. And it wasn’t just a few seniors; it was so major that the police had to be called to protect me while I quickly got all my things and pets loaded into the moving van with police men standing guard all day while I got out of there. I did not realize at that time that seniors can be just as bad as any drug dealers. When they cannot get their Norco from the doctors, they turn to the drug dealers who always keep them supplied and addicted. And the people who manage or own apartments, mobile homes, etc. are as bad as any drug dealer. They have no more principles than a snake; it would just as soon strike you as look at you.

    I truly wish that I had answers and could invoke change, but this is “The Ice Age” of Society today. All I can think is that it will ultimately leave a small percentage of people still alive and then perhaps people will suddenly look around and go back to some form of peace once again as they attempt to rebuild. I know this is a dismal picture, and for the most part, I try to be an optimist, but I would have to be unconscious to remain an optimist with all that is happening today. Although being a senior in the world today is no bed of roses, I am glad I am as old as I am as I know I don’t have a long time left on this plane, and it is going to have to get worse before it gets better. Thank you for the good article.

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    1. The USA certainly does seem to be a sick nation at the moment–so many issues and little agreement on how to solve our problems. I divide my time between the US and Latin America–although I lived in East Asia and the Middle East for 15 years as well–and it’s fascinating to observe government corruption and general dysfunction in other places. No place is perfect when human beings are in charge, but the one thing that is different in all the other countries where I’ve lived is the strength of the family unit. I’m not referring to the ‘family values’ often bandied about in the USA for political purposes. I’m speaking of a bond that is rarely broken, no matter what a family member has done. It seems to me that many of America’s problems stem from the breakdown of the family unit. I think the USA is being devoured by extreme individualism–especially the type that can be commodified $$$–and I say that even as a person who flies my freak flag proudly :-). Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and honest response.

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