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.
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.
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.