When a set of Goth-inspired high-school kids decided to kill students and faculty members in Columbine on Tuesday, April 20, 1999 the ghastly effects plunged America's Moral Police into action. That angry shooting rampage left 12 students dead and one teacher and 21 others injured. And when the same thing happened at one of the nation's prestigious universities again the hand-wringing and selective analyses began in non-stop mode for a week. Then nothing. Until the next bizarre and tragic event. Last Saturday a young, bright member of Congress, Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, was among 20 people shot -" six fatally -" by a lone gunman just 22 years old, who exercised his constitutional right to "bear arms" and used or abused that right by shooting into a defenseless and lawful assembly.
And so the spin masters, pundits and newscasters were all out in full force salivating over this latest tragedy giving tantalizing tidbits about the life and times of the alleged killer, Jared Lee Loughner, and his apparent crackpot propensities that added color to the tale of mayhem and murder in a shopping mall. As the scale of the violence unfolded Americans were glued to television screens as every twist, position, and spin were explored and exploited by reporters and cable networks.
Conveniently left out of the national conversation was the proliferation and frequency of mass killings by people with easy and unrestricted access to guns. That and our culture of violence.
Today, violence is a national pastime and is as "American as apple pie." From gladiatorial sports that breed violence in young men to wrestling as entertainment to Hollywood's new computerized gory and graphic violence, to a children's cartoon show named "kick butt," violence is more prevelant as a commodity of daily American life than the much touted and sainted apple pie. But nobody wants to admit it.
Just as nobody wants to upset the apple cart by stating the obvious: there are way too many guns in private hands and access to them has become easier than ever. That's going to have the Second Amendment nutcases fly into an unreasonable tizzy and the National Rifle Association (NRA) rushing to the bathroom with a runny belly. So we dance, play hop-scotch, and do the politically correct jig around what is the most important issue while playing ostrich and burying our collective heads in the sand lest the NRA and its coo-coo klatch blows them away with a trusty 12 gauge shot gun or an AK-47 Assault Rifle. Hey, what's a right for if not to be exercised?
So now we come to the Arizona massacre and suddenly political pundits and their masters realize that this state is one of the most gun-friendly in the nation and must be relishing its former role as a gun-slinging Mecca immortalized by many a swaggering Hollywood Western flick, maybe starring John Wayne. America's addiction to violence, especially gun violence, is so chronic that even old movies like "True Grit" nostalgically bring in huge box office revenues even after more than one remake. We just can't get enough of guns and killing.
Heck, even the wounded Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, once said that she was a proud "Glock-carrying Democrat." That she was shot by the same gun that she so loved is sad irony indeed. But the conversation about guns and gun ownership should be one that Americans welcome and not go ballistic about with images of their government seizing their sacred weapons. It is time that we drag ourselves into a modern era where gun ownership by the citizenry makes no logical sense. A Glock is not a hunting weapon. It is used to kill or wound people -" period. And in the Giffords' assassination case an extended magazine has no civilian purpose since that convenience finds use on battle fields where having more bullets in a magazine may be a matter of life and death.
Still, the absolute idiocy and illogical thinking that "guns don't kill -" people do" is part of the misinformation garbage tossed out by gun lovers rabidly mouthing off the talking points of the NRA and is both confusing and mindboggling. It is as if this knee-jerk automatic response to gun violence is standard operating procedure for any and everyone who dares to even think gun control - let alone regulation. And the intelligently sane have long concluded on empirical evidence that the more guns in the community the more homicides by handgun will be the result.
Only the certifiably stupid can say with conviction that its bad people who kill and guns don't. So hell, just send our soldiers into Iraq and Afghanistan to fend for themselves and develop some weapon of self defense if guns don't kill. This pro-gun argument makes about as much sense as claiming that "glasses don't see, eyes see" is a good argument against wearing glasses. Glasses are a tool which helps people to see just as guns are a tool that help people to kill and injure others. Empirical research indicates that firearms increase the chances that a crime will turn deadly.
A study done by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence reported that a victim is about five times more likely to survive if an attacker is armed with a knife rather than a gun.
Furthermore, the International Crime Victim Survey concluded that there is a correlation between gun ownership and an increase in both homicide and suicide. "The present study, based on a sample of eighteen countries, confirms the result of previous work based on the 14 countries surveyed during the first International Crime Survey. Substantial correlations were found between gun ownership and gun-related as well as total homicide and suicide rates. Widespread gun ownership has not been found to reduce the likelihood of fatal events committed with other means. Thus, people do not turn to knives and other potentially lethal weapons less often when more guns are available, but more guns usually mean more victims of homicide and suicide."
And what about the argument about protection from political tyranny? That kind of reasoning has spawned hundreds of heavily armed militias in the United States that hate the federal government and believe that arming themselves is the solution to some violent takeover in the future.
That's so much toilet product that, again, it defies both history and logic. Consider the following: Private ownership of guns was very common under Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. It certainly didn't protect the Iraqi people against political tyranny. Gun ownership was legalized in Germany in 1928, five years before Hitler rose to power. Despite the claims of pro-gun activists, gun ownership did nothing to stop a tyrant like Hitler from seizing power. And closer to home the Branch Dravidians in Waco, Texas, were powerless to stop the FBI and other legally armed departments of the state from using superior violent force to end the stand-off situation when matters came to a head.
Finally, there is the warped myth that keeping guns in the home increases personal protection. Gun enthusiasts chortle that keeping firearms in their home is about protecting their families and their homes from some presumed "outside invader." Therefore, they reason, hoarding automatic rifles and the latest handguns from Glock, Smith and Wesson et al. enhances their abilities to "shoot on sight" at such intruders.
Those who own firearms are actually more likely to be victims of homicide. Two studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that keeping a gun in the home increases the risk of both suicide and homicide. Keeping a gun in the home makes it 2.7 times more likely that someone will be a victim of homicide in your home (in almost all cases the victim is either related to or intimately acquainted with the murderer) and 4.8 times more likely that someone will commit suicide. Guns make it more likely that a suicide attempt will be successful than if other means were used such as sleeping pills.
The Second Amendment is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that in its original language protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It was adopted on December 15, 1791. For gun-toting zealots who tout the Second Amendment for its undisputed and infallible conclusions on the rights of a United States citizen to own any kind of gun ("arms" is a loose generic term for all armaments) this is immutable and unchangeable. Again, it defies all logic to cling steadfastly to a piece of legislation that was passed when there were only 14 states in the Union and at a time when the United States was an undeveloped, relatively backward nation.