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  Print view: The Gun Culture of America

The Gun Culture of America

by Walter Brasch
The man known as the “Prince of Peace” probably doesn’t care what the NRA believes.

Jan. 8, 2011, Tuscon, Ariz.: A man had gone to a political town meeting at a supermarket, with the intent to murder Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He killed six and wounded 14, including Giffords, who was shot in the head. On Jan. 25, 2012, Giffords, still in recovery from the shooting, walked onto the House floor to a standing ovation. Congress and the President have no plans to restore the assault weapons ban that expired under the Bush–Cheney Administration or to tighten gun laws.

April 2, 2012, Oakland, Calif.: A 43-year-old former nursing student entered a classroom at Oikos University, killed seven and wounded three. The suspect used a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun. There are more than 310 million weapons in civilian hands in the U.S. That is about one-half of all weapons in the world owned by civilians. The NRA claims the Second Amendment allows unlimited gun ownership, and viciously attacks any form of licensing. It doesn’t see the reality that there are hundreds of restrictive laws, all meant to protect the public health. At the annual meeting this month, the executive director claims the NRA is the “human engine of freedom,” and that his organization “represents the very best of America’s character and strength.”

July 8, Dover, Del.: Three persons walked onto a soccer field, killed the tournament organizer, the father of six children, and a 16-year-old player who was a straight-A student. Two persons were injured by random gunfire. There were 15,953 murders in the U.S. last year; 11,901 were from firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than 60,000 were wounded, according to the Brady Center. The NRA says “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” What it refuses to recognize is that people with guns kill people. According to data compiled by the Brady Center, a “gun in the home is [22 times] more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.” The U.S. has a rate of 2.8 murders by gun per 100,000 individuals. This is the highest rate of the G12 industrialized nations. It is also almost seven times higher than the next 22 countries combined. The lowest rate is that of the United Kingdom, which has a death by gun rate one one-hundredth that of the U.S. The UK has gun controls.

July 17, Tuscaloosa, Ala.: A gunman with a military-style assault rifle went to the house of a man who he believed knew someone else, shouted a racial slur, and shot that man, and then walked into a crowded bar and began shooting. Seventeen were wounded from gun fire, shrapnel, and shattered glass. The suspect had a history of violence. Several states permit persons to carry concealed weapons into bars, unless specifically prohibited by that particular business. The NRA says students should be allowed to carry weapons on college campuses. Five states currently permit college students to carry weapons onto campus. Mixing alcohol and guns, as anyone who watches movie westerns knows, has never been a good idea. About 700,000 assaults a year are committed by college students who have been drinking, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports at least 40 percent of all college students binge drink at least once a month.

July 20, Aurora, Colo: A man with full body armament entered the Century Movie Theater, killed 12 and injured 58. He used a 12-gauge tactical shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15-round semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum, and a Glock .22 pistol. Within the previous two months, he had bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition. “Gun-rights” advocates claim if even a few people in the theater were armed the tragedy could have been averted. Apparently, they naively believe that a concealed handgun would stop an attack by a maniac in full-body armor, carrying assault weapons. They also must have believed there would not be additional panic, and the killing of innocent bystanders by those with the guns who might be see flashes elsewhere in the theater and fire back. Of the previous 62 mass shootings, not one was stopped by a civilian with a gun.

Aug. 5, Oak Creek, Wisc.: A white supremacist entered the Sikh temple and killed seven people. He used a 9-mm. semi-automatic pistol. By fear and intimidation, the NRA has blocked federal legislation, and has used money as its weapon of choice. This year, the NRA contributed about $17.6 million to campaigns, most to Republican candidates or for ads opposing Democratic candidates who believed in reasonable legislation. The NRA refuses to even acknowledge that there can be sensible laws that meet the requirements of the Second Amendment.

Aug. 13, College Station, Texas: A 35-year-old man, who proudly proclaimed himself to be a gun enthusiast, killed a constable and a passerby, and wounded four others, before police killed him. Mitt Romney says there should be no changes in current gun laws.

Oct. 9, northern Mexico: The Mexican Navy captured the leader of the notorious Zetas drug cartel, believed to have killed an innocent American two years earlier. Mexico’s drug cartels provide about 90 percent of all illegal drugs to the U.S., according to the Congressional Research Service. Most of their weapons of choice, according to data compiled by the Latin America Herald-Tribune, are guns from the U.S, bought online, by gun-runners, or at gun shows. The “gun show loophole” allows unlicensed dealers to sell guns to whomever they want, without background checks. The ATF says between 25 and 70 percent of all dealers at gun shows are unlicensed. There are more than 4,000 gun shows a year, where “lie and buy,” mixed with a heavy dose of greed, is more common than good sense.

Oct. 21, Brookfield, Wisc.: A man walked into a spa, killed his wife and two other women, and wounded four before killing himself six hours later. The NRA says the U.S. should just enforce existing laws, but has actively opposed giving higher budgets or personnel authorization to police and federal agencies. The NRA is on record as having called the ATF a “jack-booted group of fascists,” and that police are “agents wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms.” The extreme right-wing, with survivalist delusions, believe civilian possession of assault weapons will “protect” them against an “invasion” by the U.S. military (or, perhaps, aliens from outer space) against homeowners.

Nov. 22, Black Friday: A shrill paranoid NRA had declared that if Barack Obama is re-elected, “Every freedom we cherish as Americans is endangered.” More guns were sold on this day than any day in U.S. history. Virginia, which had a one handgun per month limit, repealed its law in July, although the Virginia State Crime Commission concluded, “law-abiding gun purchasers in Virginia are not unduly burdened by Virginia’s one-gun-a-month law.” More than 40 percent of all guns used in murders in New York City came from Virginia, according to ATF data. The I-95 corridor along the east coast may be the most open channel for drug and gun traffic. The NRA wants open sales and to eliminate the Brady Law database on background checks.

Dec. 14, Newtown, Conn.: A 20-year-old man kills his mother, breaks into a school, and murders 20 six-and seven-year-old children, and six adults defending them, and then commits suicide. The killer had a 10mm Glock handgun, a 9mm SIG Sauer handgun, and a .223-caliber Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, which can fire 45 rounds a minute. Three other guns were at his home. All guns were legally purchased by his mother. More than three-fourths of all weapons used in murders were legally purchased. President Obama said on the day of the massacre, “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” The NRA remains silent.

There were 12 mass murders so far this year. There will be 33 more deaths from gunshot wounds today. There will be 33 more tomorrow. And the day after that and the day after that. And there will be 33 murders by guns on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The man known as the “Prince of Peace” probably doesn’t care what the NRA believes.

[Walter Brasch, who shoots trap, believes in responsible gun ownership and, more important, responsible laws. His latest book, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, looks at violence in America.]

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This story was published on December 23, 2012.


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