To say something is as "American as apple pie" is to identify it as significant to our collective and historical consciousness; certainly it would not be an exaggeration to say that guns are as American as "apple pie".
Recent events however have compelled our country to adapt to the realities of a rapidly changing world making the assertion of gun ownership a questionable "right" of the few, as each day has produced a scene of death and carnage in our schools, churches, hospitals and movie theaters, more gruesome than the former.
These instances have carved out a nightmare on our collective history as our country is forced to confront increasingly horrific scenarios of gun violence.
These tragedies have forced us to question the cost and benefits of arming one portion of the public over the other.
The raw statistics are quite compelling as on average more than 30,000 people are killed by gun violence in America each year.
- In 2010, guns took the lives of 31,076 Americans in homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour.
- 73,505 Americans were treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds in 2010.
- Firearms were the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide in 2010, following poisoning and motor vehicle accidents.
- Between 1955 and 1975, the Vietnam War killed over 58,000 American soldiers – less than the number of civilians killed with guns in the U.S. in an average two-year period.
- In the first seven years of the U.S.-Iraq War, over 4,400 American soldiers were killed. Almost as many civilians are killed with guns in the U.S., however, every seven weeks.
- Guns were used in 11,078 homicides in the U.S. in 2010, comprising almost 35% of all gun deaths, and over 68% of all homicides.6
- On average, 33 gun homicides were committed each day for the years 2005-2010.
- Regions and states with higher rates of gun ownership have significantly higher rates of homicide than states with lower rates of gun ownership.
- Firearms were used in 19,392 suicides in the U.S. in 2010, constituting almost 62% of all gun deaths.10
- Over 50% of all suicides are committed with a firearm.
- Where guns are prevalent, there are significantly more homicides, particularly gun homicides
(According to the National Center for Injury Prevention & Control and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Web-Based Injury Statistics)
An example of this chaos outside of cold statistics is more tangible in the Newton Conn. tragedy wherein 26 people were gunned down, most of them children, and which has been covered daily in the media re-igniting the debate on gun rights.
It would not however be an understatement to say that Gun's are part of the very fabric of our country, and because of this some critics proclaim that we are on the verge of a "civil war" in the US, if in fact those guns are "taken away", or as the Federal Government likes to say "strongly regulated".
Civil War? Why Now...?
Contrary to the arguments of gun rights advocates, gun regulation has been in the hands of the federal government since the inception of the Constitution itself.
In fact the Constitution was one of the first successful attempts at some form of government regulation. Historically however this right has never been extended to all people equally, for example: slaves, immigrants,minorities, prisoners, and more recently "ex prisoners", .
Therefore the absolute right to gun ownership is in fact a fictitious idea, where the reality lies more in the selective regulation of gun ownership, concentrating access to the vast majority these weapons of war in the hands of only a portion of the society at large.
This explains the nature of "new" legislation recently passed in NY and also proposed in Congress preventing the "mentally ill" from having access to guns (the definition of mentally ill being quite vague indeed), none of which would have made a difference in terms of saving the lives in widely publicized tragedies throughout the US.
Only recently has the legislative pile become so pervasive that the few remaining persons that are able to legally own, afford and maintain expensive weapons such as semi-automatic machine guns, are feeling the crunch from the government... particularly those who manufacture, sell or make a living off the continued existence of these weapons in our society.
Essentially our society is faced not with a civil war, but on a civil dilemma, forcing us to acknowledge that weapons of mass destruction have no true place in a civil society, and that these weapons do not make us safer, but rather place us at greater risk.
Non-Gun Owners the Victims of "Registered" Gun Owners
How is there justice in a society that places weapons in the hands of one part of that society but not the other? Several things happen in such an unbalanced scenario, the first of which is that those with the guns tend use them against those without guns.
This point is borne out by statistics that show that a gun is most likely to be used on another member of the same household, rather than a burglar or criminal.
Our culture however is numb to the level of violence which grips our cities and sub-burbs. As headline after bloody headline streams out of our television or radio... the daily shooting has become so common that it barely moves us even if the victim is a woman, child or otherwise innocent person.
In fact the US Congress would not even entertain this discussion prior to the shooting deaths of 20 school children and six adults, recently in Conn., followed by the ambush shooting of a fireman and a police officer responding to a 9-11 call.
To the government and much of the public this was a "non" issue. The statistics mentioned above had no bearing on their decision-making abilities as a very small but vocal portion of the public continues to support arming groups, organizations, and criminal gangs through out the country.
Law enforcement has also taken on an increasingly militant position in its task of policing the public becoming a threat to the well being of those they claim to protect. Much of this has been in response rising threats by armed citizens willing to kill without hesitation, with weapons of war sold legally throughout the country at gun shows, in stores, and on the internet.
Caught in the middle of the US civilian arms race are the millions on non-gun owners who expect to live out their lives peacefully, only to be unwittingly victimized by a stray bullet, or homicidal maniac. Often those bullets come from the guns of an increasing hostile and trigger happy police force paid to protect them.
Think Mexico City where guns are not legally sold, and where the cops ride around in caravans of black clad flack jackets, masked, and heavily armed. These forces carry M-16's and heavy mounted machine guns, intimidating not drug dealers, but rather the un-armed general public. Ironically US manufacturers have successfully armed both sides of the war on drugs reaping vast sums of both legal and illegal profits.
This scenario however could very well repeat itself here in the US if we fail to confront the clear and present danger of weapon proliferation within our own borders.
Is weaponization the only solution and cure to an ever increasing rise of violence in America, or in fact a cause of it? The answer to this question depends on who you ask.
While gun regulation is nothing new to politics, what is different today are the powerful weapons constituencies in Congress such as the NRA.
Many of these groups have disproportionate influence on the way laws are written and enforced because of their entanglement in the foreign wars from which they profit, as well as the vast sums of cash dumped into the pockets of various politicians who ensure that any attempt to limit or curtail the production, and sale of their weapons to the public, is not infringed.
The gun lobby acts as an appendage of the political right, and the interests of these lobbies are fanatically advanced by the GOP.
The long term result of this has been a deluge of WEAPONS OF WAR in the streets of most US cities. While people in suburbia feign shock at the recently publicized murders, residents of US inner cities know quite well the slew of murders which take place daily... as a matter of course.
Recent political discourse however has demonstrated the human tendency to minimize and deflect these facts when these murders are spread evenly across the country, however, when concentrated in one spot on one day, in a place that statistically should never see this level of blatant aggression... there is suddenly shock and awe in the state capitol, a flurry of activity, and anther slew of laws that further degrades the category of people able to own guns in America, but does nothing to limit the sale of these weapons themselves.
The underlying assumption is that these crimes can be prevented by limiting possession of these weapons to the select few of responsible gun owners. Completely disregarding the fact that such horrific crimes such as the recent school shootings are often committed by people without prior criminal or mental history. Leaving untouched the issue of how to prevent such crimes altogether.
The reason for this oversight is not neglect or lack of understanding but rather a deliberate attempt to veil the ultimate solution which has been applied in first rate democracies world wide: the only way to prevent gun violence is to eliminate the guns. This becomes an un-acceptable conclusion as it undermines not freedom, but rather PROFIT.
The De-Clawing of a Republic
The greatest and most often used Weapon of Mass Destruction in the world is the machine gun. Traditionally legislation has been aimed at curtailing access to this type of weapon, and with good reason.
This weapon not only revolutionized war, but has determined the historical direction of societies world-wide, ultimately affecting the political balance of almost every country on earth in one way or another.
Today it is the most widely used instrument of political change, in many places such as Somalia, Afghanistan and Myanmar applied far more often than the ballot. Machine guns seemingly rule the world, determining life and death for millions. This has been true for some time now.
Therefore it makes sense to limit the access of these weapons in a complex and integrated society such as the United States. Banning of the public sale of these weapons is the rule in most most modern democracies as few (if any) have such lenient regulations, and even in America the question is not one of accessibility (as regulation has long existed), but rather the degree of regulation, which ranges between an outright ban to the creative half measures recently proposed in Congress and several state legislatures.
While the complete abolishment of guns is doubtful, the banning of machine guns and the like, makes much more sense in context of current domestic and world wide trends.
Most countries using machine gun diplomacy such as: Mexico, Syria, the DRC, Qatar, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma, Somalia, Yemen, Libya...etc. have not become safer, but rather perpetually destabilized centers of violence, where the machine gun rules. Americans should take note as our country is placed side by side with despicable regimes where bullets beat the ballot, due to our refusal to reign in the proliferation of these weapons.
No weapon has laid a more grisly trail of blood and death on the face of history, than the machine gun which history dictates can either be effective political tool or, a societal scourge. Today in our streets, schools churches and homes these weapons have become just that, as these weapons provide few if any benefits to our society at large.
In America our politics are affected by the ballot, not the bullet, however this equation may change if extremism is allowed to prevail. Extremism in all its forms is ugly, including unreasonable proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in (what is thought to be) a civil society as advocated by the NRA and their minions.
Arming the 'other half' of Americans
The NRA's solution to this dilemma? Put guns into the hands of the other half of the people that have no guns. This of course is sick logic which generally only makes since to weapons dealers, as the problem essentially is not the lack of weapons, but rather the presence of them.
This the NRA cannot concede as such reasoning goes against the very purpose for the NRA's existing: to promote the ownership and therefore the sale of MGMD's: machine guns of mass destruction.
To make sense of this behavior one must keep in mind one simple thread of logic on this issue, which is that the NRA, organized crime, the GOP and terrorists all share the same position on urban weapons proliferation: PROFIT MOTIVE. This is how weapons get to Africa and South America where there are no weapons factories. How can one argue against Russia and China arming militants in the Middle East or Africa, when US factories turn out millions of these same weapons sold throughout the world, and even worse (unlike China and Russia) to its own citizens. And to what end? Profit.
To cut into the profit which surrounds the proliferation of the weapons at issue will become a unforgivable sin, worthy of... death maybe? Interesting comments have been made from many right wing commentators... comments which lament the American Revolution, threaten Civil War and advocate...murder and assassination of public officials.
This would have been an anathema to the founding fathers, whom the NRA and GOP often invoke. As they envisioned a society governed not by brute force, but rather by laws and the people themselves.
Violence was always at the extreme end of options and solutions when forming the government we now enjoy. Today however, unlike the 1700's people are insanely violent, and while this culture of violence is not unique to America, it is certainly exacerbated in the US by the proliferation of weapons of war among the general public. FBI background checks and waiting periods have done little to prevent the litany of massacres which have assailed our cities and towns.
Living in a society where anyone of its members is able to carry out mass killings at a whim is a phenomena unique to the end of the 20th century, and a cancer in dawn of the 21st.
Expanding Executive and State Powers After 9-11
Weapons proliferation has had far reaching consequences which do not stop at mass shootings, as the very nature of our democracy has become one not of a free people, but of a people needing to be intensely policed and hence stripped of the very "rights" and "freedoms" the NRA and other right wing groups, continue to invoke.
Recent events demonstrate that some of our worst fears have materialized as Americans have becomes victims of our own Frankenstein obsessively augmenting the power of the state to provide "security" at all costs, including the forfeiture of our rights to privacy, freedom from unlawful search and seizure, and the freedoms of not being policed by the armed forces (Posse Comitatus Act).
The most recent and pervasive example being the Patriot Act signed by George W. Bush, as well as the stationing of US troops on US soil for the ostensible purpose of suppressing public dissent. It is well known that several division of the armed forces have recently participated in extensive training in suppressing domestic "terrorists", domestic dissent and domestic civil disobedience.
Part of the justification of this domestic military force is the danger of extremist groups known to have vast arsenals most of which is bought legally on the domestic weapons market.
Empowering the state with huge and sweeping security powers would come back to haunt law abiding American's themselves, ultimately affecting the traditional application of the Constitution, if not essentially doing away with many of its tenets altogether, as some politicians in Congress such as Diane Feinstein D-Ca have advocated.
For decades since the start of the War on Drugs in 1972 the state has gained increasingly disproportionate police powers over the live of its citizens, but only recently as predicted by many government watchdog groups, these powers have begun to eat at a broader spectrum of American rights making the rise of a police state quite a significant concern, especially if that state were to demand that you to turn in your guns.
As the impact of these, in some cases, draconian laws have been felt throughout Black and Hispanic communities for decades, the situation was compounded by the attack on Sept 11th, resulting in a barrage of "security initiatives" across the board, most of which were favored by the majority of voters.
Endorsed by leading politicians on both sides of the isle as tools against Terrorism and "evil doers" America accepted to abide by, and pay for, several un-Constitutional expansions of state powers including:
- the assassination of American citizens without trial,
- imprisonment of Americans without being charged,
- domestic spying,
- invasion of privacy on many levels by multiple agencies,
- Literally hundreds of new laws have been recently enacted granting huge and sweeping powers to the President, the CIA, NSA, and FBI, not to mention the denuding humiliation of body scanners in airports.
Essentially we live in an age of "law and order", or rather an age of incessantly expanding state police powers, this is indisputable. Thus, the regulation of these weapons becomes another side effect of living in the self imposed age of law and order.
With a government seeking increasing control over, and invasion into, the lives of its citizens Americans are confronted with the first of a series of great conflicts which will drastically shape the face of the country over the next couple of years.
These conflicts will not be solved with a knee jerk reaction of declaring war on the state, or shouting slogans of "revolution", but rather through the twisted and complex annals of slow moving, but credible legislation and citizen participation, the determining factor in US politics for the last 100 years.
Few if any recent civil conflicts in the US have been solved by terrorism, guerrilla war or revolution as advocated by some parts of the political spectrum, some of which to their discredit are elected officials in Congress.
Recent History of Gun Rights Movements
One man's terrorist, is another man's patriot, and patriotism in America has often had bloody endings. If regulatory trends continue the future American patriots may largely play out as those who will be pursued by the state to relinquish their stockpiles of weapons, and who may ultimately refuse, and die, as the tide in US public opinion swings largely toward greater regulation. These people will not be called patriots, but rather terrorists.
The question of what would happen if the government tried to disarm the public is moot. It is well known that the government has a zero tolerance attitude toward people refusing to give up their arms, some case studies would include: the Black Panthers, the AFRICA movement, Waco, Ruby Ridge, the Texas Republicans, the New Black Panther Party, and others who have outright refused to "hand over their guns".
These examples are exceptional only in the sense that they weren't part of a larger movement backed by public discontent similar to what one sees in the Arab Spring uprisings. Rather they were depicted by the media as examples of "extremists", "terrorists" and "criminality".
These Americans were reviled essentially for exercising what they viewed as their God given and Constitutional right to bear arms. Demonized by the media for their political views the subject of their gun ownership became the pivotal point on which the government infiltrated, and eliminated their movements. This in spite of public discontent toward the governments heavy handedness in some cases.
Standing alone their movements were criminalized and laws were enacted to prevent these "anomalies" in the future. The point is that the lack of public discontent undermined the political nature of resistance in the US and made the simple display of militancy by minorities or religious fringe groups a crime, absent any actual use of force.
The Second Amendment right has been fought over by Native Americans, African Americans, and Mexican Americans, for hundreds of years, yet not until this discontent reaches the very homes of the constituents whose political sway has historically supported regulation of minority rights, do you hear right wing advocates or pundits like Alex Jones openly throw out words which include: "civil war", "assassination", "revolution" in the face of calls for greater gun regulation.
One wonders what planet this guy has been living on for the last three decades? Apparently not in a Black neighborhood as the low level war on the streets of America has been alive for several decades now, consuming generation after generation of Black, Hispanic and poor inner city Americans.
The current discussion denies a reality that exists for many people, and that is, that war was declared on segments of the American public, long ago. Guns their use, and their misuse have been and integral part of that reality from the beginning and continue to be, not a benefit, but rather a plague.
This is seen in the increasingly frequent and violent uses of force by both state and criminal elements throughout the country and in all walks of life. Few groups or individuals have escaped the scourge of violence, drugs and state abuse of police powers.
Today in light of declining wealth, increasingly complex social problems, a surge in criminality, and its evil twin police violence, many people are traumatized, but not unaware that the solution to this scourge is not in arming the other 50% of Americans, but in limiting access to weapons of war in our society on a whole, as increasing weaponization of the public eats at he fabric of what we would define as a civil society.
Hence the logic of the NRA which espouse arming the "non-gun owners" against the victimizers is at best counter productive, and at worst simply insane.
Banning Guns Is Unwise And Unlikely
This does not however imply that outright banning of guns is realistic or close. Certainly history in US politics has demonstrated that absent a change to the Constitution itself, most politicians have had little stomach for confronting the powerful gun lobbies, let alone outright banning of guns. Certainly this issue has been debated hotly over the last 200 years.
One scenario which could envision banning guns however would be similar to Nazi Germany under the 3rd Reich. The Nazi's stratified the society into watchers and those who were watched. The watchers: police, state organs, army etc. and people supporting the state could have guns. Everyone else however was off limits.
Hence the issue of gun ownership in America is not one which deals with a universal right, but one which deals with class, race, economic and social status... essentially this has become a class issue making it counterproductive in revolutionary thought.
MADD Logic and "Proliferationists"
The logic of traditional constituencies like the NRA and GOP is based on the same logic of nuclear war, MADD. And certainly this reasoning has more than a hint of insanity to it when you begin to analyze it.
For example rather than seeking a world free of nuclear weapons "proliferationists" argue the world will be safer with MORE nuclear weapons.
Another example: rather than make peace between two countries by refusing to arm either side, "proliferationists" not only arm one side, but quite often arm BOTH SIDES of a foreign conflict.
Up to recently the proliferationists in the US have carried the day. At least until the savagery of gun violence and weapons proliferation in America shocked the national consciousness.
And as to be expected Proliferationists argue the solution is of course: more guns!
In fact this becomes a circular and repetitive argument distracting from the main issue which is not the lack of guns but rather the presence and misuse of these weapons in a civil society where the vast majority of people do not have, do not want, and cannot afford them.
Thus availability and misuse become conjoined evil twins one re-enforcing the other. While it is impossible to determine who the next mass killer will be, it is certainly conceivable to determine what weapon of choice he will use: the one that shoots the most bullets.
Half Hearted Solutions Are No Solution In The Face Of Long Term Trends
Unfortunately however on the other side of the spectrum which advocates greater regulation, these groups have produced little evidence that any regulation short of outright banning of most types of firearms will prevent these kind of shootings.
In the recent school shooting and many others like it, the weapons used were perfectly legal and within the limits of the law. In retrospect only the inability to purchase these guns would have made any difference (short of mind reading). Essentially guns do not care whether they are legal or not, as even legal guns take the lives of thousands each year.
Therefore legislation which limits the accessibility of these weapons to "qualified individuals", is not in itself a cure, certainly the solution lies much deeper in the fabric of the American consciousness which spawned this unique phenomena. Which brings us to the tougher task of addressing the cultural aspect of gun violence.
De-weaponization, and a cultural shift in perspective will both be key to long term survival of the sane society in the US over the coming years. What very few politicians including Barack Obama and the Democrats refuse to touch is the cultural issue behind gun violence.
In other words the root causes of our fascination with these weapons, our inclination to use them against one another and our refusal to admit that we as a people have a problem that reaches to the very core of our identity as Americans.
The excessive glorification and use of guns in our society implies a state of fear and weakness. At one time in America guns were generally seen as defensive tools, however recent technical developments int he offensive capabilities of these weapons have created an unforeseen dimension.
- The simultaneous convergence of several factors including:
- dissolution of the nuclear family
- increase in psychological dysfunction
- increase in substance abuse
- increase in displays of violence throughout the media (movies, video games, music)
- constant glorification of war, weapons of war and state violence by politicians, and public figures
- decrease in household incomes
- increase in criminality, and criminal organizations through out the country
These and other factors have led to an increase in mass shootings, as well as the daily run of the mill murder suicide, and multiple homicide.
While the presence of guns themselves does not cause these crimes, certainly it facilitates carrying them out in an environment where people are increasingly unable to cope with the normal and mundane stresses of life, such as bullying, losing a job, divorce, road rage, depression, drug use and anger.
America Must Find Its Balance on Gun Control
Gun control is not an across the board issue because it is not an across the board problem. Many Americans live lives without guns in their homes (why we have the police), and those that do own guns generally don't own machine guns although several million are in circulation.
Addressing gun control is an issue that must go far beyond the mere availability of weapons to address the "why" factor in regard to the mindset of people committing these shootings, as well as the culture values spawning them.
Historically this has been a moot issue since it was primarily deemed a inner city, racial, soci-economic problem. Having shocked the national awareness people are trying to determine what it really means to have family next to you that have stockpiles of machine guns... or even just one. My advice, tread lightly.
The level of social violence in America is shocking to many outside of our borders as they fail to understand the basic rationale behind such senseless acts. Recent history has demonstrated a rise in mass killings globally, however only in the "first world countries" are these mass shootings committed out of sheer pleasure on behalf of the killers, lacking any political or otherwise monetary motive. Thus the culture of violence has bred a society inclined to violence for no other reason than self satisfaction and hate.
Until this evil had touched the homes of the many who do not own guns, there traditionally had been no desire to legislate the past-time pleasures of the few who do. With the recent rise in violence for the sake of violence, there has been a noticeable change in this rather lackadaisical attitude.
Focusing in on the Issue
The main issue here however is not simply the ownership of guns, but rather the unfettered proliferation of WMD's: machine guns, semi-automatic and high capacity weapons among a civilian population, as essentially these are weapons of war.
In addition is the need for a public discussion and consideration of the driving forces behind the motives of those who chose to turn guns on others, and even themselves, particularly in mass shootings which have become the most visible misuse of these weapons.
If the founding fathers who lived in a time where guns shot 1 bullet per minute, could envision a world where people would have guns that can shoot thousands of bullets a minute, I believe they would have worded the constitution much differently.
While many argue that guns protect them and ensure their freedom, the reality is that today we in far greater danger than ever as we have allowed the weaponization of various parts of our population to our own peril.