Monday, July 23, 2012

A Pathetic Government Failure: Out of Control Gun Violence in America

Last weekend Mayor Steve Hogan of Aurora, Colorado was asked about the need for better gun laws in the wake of the murderous rampage in his city.  He pathetically replied that the perpetrator would have used bombs if there had been no guns. In other words, guns were not the problems.  I suppose if the perpetrator hadn’t been able to make bombs, he would have personally strangled all twelve people and stabbed the other 58 with his Swiss Army Knife.  That might have required more time and effort than the few minutes during which he shot his 870 Remington 12-gauge shotgun, for which he purchased 300 bullets and shot, Glock handgun and AR-15 assault rifle, another 300 bullets.  Michelle Bachmann thoughtfully says her AR-15 is her favorite rifle, which is really terrific news.

 Numerous indicators provide evidence the United States is becoming incapable of managing its own affairs as a democratic constitutional sovereign government, as argued by Naom Chomsky in his book Failed States.   One index of deterioration of our democracy is the control over the nation by the gun and ammunition industry which is represented by the NRA.  The National Rifle Organization is capable of defeating any elected official who proposes nearly any form of gun regulation.  

The Orwellian term “firearms” was invented to avoid having to refer to “guns” because the latter term includes killing weapons owned by the bad guys, and the NRA wants us to think of “firearms” as only being owned by hunters and police officers.  Firearms=Good, Guns=Bad   They are the same thing. Guns and firearms are designed to kill people. The NRA also prefers using the term “rounds” to “bullets.”  Rounds=Good, Bullets=Bad   The military and police officers refer to “rounds,” which is a euphemism for bullets.  If one looks up “round” in the dictionary, one discover a round is a single drink all around, or a rung of a chair, or a cut of beef.  One must read down to the 10th definition to find “round” referring to a single shot or bullet.  The bullets shot from guns kill people. A very small proportion of bullets or shot from guns can also be used to shoot deer or grouse... a very small percentage of all guns and ammunition. 

Elected members of the US Congress and the presidents of the United States literally cower, whimper and grovel at the feet of the gun and ammunition industry, unable to do anything to control the unconscionable distribution, sale and transfer of lethal killing instruments to anyone in the country who wants one, or two or ten.  It is an utterly appalling spectacle seeing elected officials defending private ownership of automatic weapons that are routinely used to kill thousands of people in their own cities and states, for which they have legal responsibility. They apparently feel insufficient shame to act like responsible human beings.  In 2007 there were 12,632 gun homicide deaths in the US. I’m not sure how many strangulations or paring knife murders there were in the US, probably less.  

Though the NRA’s public argument favoring gun sales to ordinary citizens is formulated as a Second Amendment Constitutional issue, there is nothing in the US Constitution suggesting ordinary, untrained and unregulated individuals should own weapons of mass destruction, such as automatic weapons capable to shooting 60 bullets per minute.  The ratified Second Constitutional Amendment reads: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  Note that there are two provisions, “a well regulated militia” and “the right of people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  The NRA often quotes the second provision but never mentions the first, i.e. “well regulated militia.”  The young man in Aurora who killed 15 and maimed 58 more was not a well regulated militia, at least as nearly as one could tell, unless it was a very small militia.  

Contrary to the political advertising, this is really all about money not the Second Amendment, i.e. the gun industry. The industry, includes over 180 companies, has a payroll of over 10,000 employees who are paid $400 million, and selling approximately $35 billion in guns and ammunition.  By comparison the US Postal Service employs over 574,000 workers, and congress pays virtually no attention to their views.  There are over 250,000 people employed in the computer industry, and Congress seldom falls to its feet in reverence to them as it does the NRA.  The NRA buys elections for Republicans and can defeat any Democrat who opposes them, so Congress rolls over and plays dead as the NRA drives by in their shiny black Caddy's.  Just as quail flutter around in circles and flap their wings to draw attention away from their nest when a predator approaches, Congress people flutterer making whimpering vocalizations while pointing at their fellow Congress people claiming they are pro-gun control, so as to divert attention from then when the NRA approaches.  Congress, which is supposed to represent the American people is unwilling to act in the people’s best interest in this life and death matter. It is utterly shameful .

Lots of Americans have been convinced that handguns are really swell, like a chicken in every pot. They really do.  Not long ago lots of Americans thought discriminating against African Americans and Women was also a great idea. Not long ago lots of Americans though driving a gas guzzling pickup truck that spewed clouds of exhaust, made lots of noise and kicked up dirt, that got 12 miles per gallon was a convincing testament to the owner’s manhood. And lots of Americans in the deep South thought lynching Black people was also really terrific. Americans’ fixation on owning guns is part of the same sick mythology of the shoot-em up world of The Wild West, with an amazing array of Americans buying into John Wayne and Dirty Harry movie plot lines as though they had something to do with reality. I read a Facebook post recently from a would-be vigilante who said he would have “taken out” the Aurora killer with his own handgun if he had had been there. “Taken out” is used in speech if it were an invitation to go for a walk, instead of blowing someone brains out and splattering them on the wall while their everyone watched. It is a kind of cultural sickness.  Instead of being a cause for chest thumping, is should be a source of deep humiliation. It will be eventually, but probably not in my lifetime. 


According to the Office of Juvenille Justice and Delinquency Prevention, there are approximately 44 million gun owners in the United States.  This means that 25 percent of all adults, and 40 percent of American households, own at least one gun. These owners possess 192 million guns, of which 65 million are handguns. No one knows precisely how many gang members and other criminals own guns purchased through gun shows, obtained through legal gun stores, obtained through “straw purchases” in gun stores, or on-line. Essentially all gang-members own guns.  Among the on-line gun dealers are,, the and many more.  There is basically no meaningful regulation of gun purchases in the United States, including automatic weapons.  None.  In Texas and Virginia people buy guns in large quantitites, walk out of the store and re-sell them to distributors who sell them on the streets all over the country.  Then they walk back into the same gun store and buy another 20 or 40 guns and repeat the sale to dealers. 

Only in America could this pathetic scene play out.  If Congress and the US President continue to fail to act on personal ownership of guns and bullets, the very fabric of the country is in jeopardy.  No exaggeration.  Public confidence in the ability of the government to assure the safety and well being of the American people is progressively unraveling, which can lead eventually to anarchy.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York has the right idea, it’s at least a start.  As usual in America, a political response will eventually come with great delay, with inadequate effectiveness, and incrementally.  Lets hope the foundation of our government holds together in the mean time.