The times call for action, not platitudes…
The times we live in—when innocents are being slaughtered by the dozens—demand leadership and decisive action to prevent future horrific events. Instead, we get meaningless platitudes from Republicans who are in a position to address meaningfully the rash of senseless mass murderers we are experiencing.
Having grown up in a typical working-class Chicano barrio in which a great number (maybe the majority?) of the men were hunters, I am not militantly anti-guns. What I am against is the availability of firearms that were designed for the military and whose purpose is to kill people, and to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. There is nothing “sporting” about such weapons. And what I am for is universal background checks for all gun buyers. Responsible gun buyers have absolutely nothing to fear from these.
Cynical “thoughts and prayers” by politicians…
The knee-jerk reaction of Republican politicians to the slaughter of innocents of sending “thoughts and prayers” to victims of gun violence is infuriating and insulting. This is a cruelly cynical tactic to avoid doing something regarding guns and avoiding future tragedies. There is a direct correlation between the pro-gun votes of Republican politicos and the money they receive from the NRA and the gun lobby.
To their everlasting shame, these politicos value the NRA’s and gun manufacturers’ lobbyists money, money that is dripping with the blood of children like the victims of Sandy Hook and of other innocents, more than they value human life.
These politicos should learn from Mother Teresa, who understood that prayer is not a substitute for action, that prayer is dynamic and not passive. She taught—by example, not through preaching—that prayers and redemptive work go hand-in-hand: “I used to believe that prayer changes things. But now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.” Referencing Mother Teresa’s perspective, writer Tyler Huckabee noted that, “Perhaps it’s best to say that prayer and action are at their best when they are in harmony, and if we are serious when we say ‘our prayers are with you,’ then our prayers must be in intimate relationship with redemptive work.” (“The Prayer of the Righteous,” Relevant Magazine December 03, 2015)
Mass murderers love AR-15 and their variants…
AR-15 rifles, or variants of it, were used in six of the most recent mass shootings: Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Connecticut (2012; 20 children, 7 adults murdered); Pulse night club, Orlando, Florida (2016; 49 murdered); The Harvest Music Festival, Las Vegas (2017; 58 murdered); First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017; 26 murdered); Century 16 movie theater, Aurora, Colorado (2012; 12 murdered); office party shooting, San Bernardino, California (2015; 14 murdered). Hundreds of others were injured in these mass-murder incidents. This is merely a sampling and not a comprehensive listing of mass murders committed using AR-15 rifles, or variants of it.
The AR-15 was designed for the U.S. military in the 1950s. The military did not order the manufacture of these rifles so as to issue them to soldiers so that they could go hunt deer or elk. The AR-15 is not a “sporting” rifle. The AR-15 is a combat weapon whose purpose it is to kill people. Period.
The AR-15 rifles and their variants that are purchased by civilians are semiautomatic—one bullet is fired every time the trigger is pulled. Bullets are fed into the rifle via a 50-plus bullet magazine. But “semiautomatic” is a technicality. These rifles can be easily converted to fully automatic weapons by means of cheap and easily obtainable devices known as “bump stocks.” The Las Vegas murderer did exactly that, allowing him to murder 58 people and injure over 500 in a matter of a few minutes.
After the Las Vegas murders, there was talk of regulating bump stocks, but exhibiting their usual nonpareil pusillanimity, as soon as the Las Vegas massacre was out of the headlines, the Republicans who control both houses of Congress went back to bed with the NRA extremists and the gun manufacturers.
Far-right militants, white supremacists also favor AR-15 rifles…
Mass murderers aren’t the only ones who favor AR-15 rifles and their variants. Far-right militants and white nationalists-supremacists are partial to them also. Some examples:
In 2009, Tea Party members armed with assault rifles showed up at a speech by President Obama to protest Obama’s election as President of the U.S. Far-right militants, some armed with AR-15 type of rifles, came to the defense of the law-breaking Cliven Bundy in Nevada in 2014 and surrounded federal law-enforcement officers and threatened to shoot them. Also in 2014, white nationalists carrying AR-15 type of weapons threatened children they believed were Central American immigrants. In 2016, a gang of far-right militants led by the sons of Cliven Bundy illegally took over a federal wildlife refuge. Some of them carried AR-15 type of weapons.
At the infamous August 2017 “unite the right” white supremacist rally, men carrying military-style assault rifles marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia chanting “blood and soil” and other Nazi slogans. Before the rally, white supremacists carrying Nazi flags and armed with AR-15 type of rifles stood outside a synagogue chanting “Sieg Heil” and threatened the temple attendees. During this rally, a white supremacist murdered a person who was protesting the white supremacists.
It was these white supremacists whom President Trump described as “very fine people.”
No right is absolute…
Americans revere the Bill of Rights and the rights it articulates, but as a society we have agreed that these rights are not absolute. Everybody loves the First Amendment’s Free Speech provision, but free speech is not absolute. It is a crime to utter a threat to the President of the United States. It is a crime to lie while under oath in court or before Congress or when interviewed by the F.BI. It is a crime to enter—via speech—into a conspiracy to commit a crime. And so on.
The Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures; these require a warrant based on probable cause. But, like free speech, this right is not absolute. There are six major exceptions to the “search and seizure” right articulated in the Fourth Amendment.
And despite the NRA’s distorted view of it, the Second Amendment, which addresses gun ownership, is not absolute either. For example, in most states, felons cannot possess firearms, and in many states, it is illegal to have a concealed firearm and/or to carry firearms openly. As a society we have agreed that these types of restrictions are reasonable and comport with the intent of the Second Amendment.
The NRA leadership is totally out of touch with its membership and with the gun-owning public in general. Public opinion polls conducted by credible organizations (John Hopkins University and the Pew Research Center) find that about 85 percent of gun owners, a large portion of whom are NRA members, favor universal background checks, something the NRA leadership vehemently opposes. And nigh on 50% of gun owners support banning high-powered assault rifles. Gun owners strongly support a federal database of gun sales, prohibiting people convicted of domestic violence from possessing firearms, and barring people with mental illness from buying guns, all of which the NRA fanatic leadership opposes.
The NRA’s objection to gun control is race specific…
The NRA and the Republicans they own would have us believe that they have consistently supported the notion of people being able to purchase and carry guns and rifles in public, including semiautomatic weapons like the AR-15 and its variants.
But in his 2011 book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” UCLA law professor Adam Winkler reports that in 1967, when armed members of the Black Panther Party were patrolling their neighborhoods in Oakland and other California cities, the NRA helped write gun-control laws to keep guns out of black hands. In reaction to the rise of the Black Panthers, the NRA collaborated with then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan to promote the Mulford Act, which prohibited citizens from carrying guns in public. Reagan told reporters in California that he saw “…no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” The NRA helped craft similar legislation in states across the country, targeting black people.
The NRA’s and the Republicans’ view of carrying arms in public took a 180-degree turn when two phenomena converged: the government ravaged the Black Panthers, and white right-wingers wanted to carry assault weapons in public to intimidate citizens and politicians.
As is all too common in politics, what the NRA and its lobbyists and the Republican elected officials say and claim to stand for are worlds apart from what they actually do. c/s
Copyright 2017 by Salomon Baldenegro. To contact Sal write: firstname.lastname@example.org