We choose firearms carnage
A few decades ago, firearms fanatics set the nation on a
crazed course toward ubiquitous gun ownership, and that
course has led us inevitably to where we are now: a society
in which there is no safety, no sanctuary, no haven. You
may be shot dead or grievously wounded in church, in
school, in a hospital, in your own home.
This year, the United States has already seen at least 192
mass shootings, defined as incidents in which at least four
people were injured or killed, according to the Gun
Violence Archive. With more than one a day so far, this
year is set to outpace last year’s total of 647 verified mass
As Trace.org notes, several studies have shown that gun
deaths rise as more guns are available, and the U.S. has
more guns than people — enough for every man, woman,
child and infant, with millions left over. Guns have become
the scratch for every itch, the solution to every problem,
the hammer for every nail. As Rutgers University
criminologist Daniel Semenza has pointed out, “When
there are more guns, it just increases risk.” Common
You’ve heard the news reports: A teenager is shot for
ringing the wrong doorbell. A college student is killed for
driving into the wrong driveway. Cheerleaders are shot for
getting in the wrong car. A father is seriously wounded
after a kid’s basketball rolls into the wrong yard. Family
members are murdered in their home after asking a
neighbor to stop firing his gun late at night.
On Wednesday, (May 3), Deion Patterson, a former
member of the Coast Guard, opened fire at an Atlanta
medical facility where he had an outpatient appointment.
He killed 39-year-old Amy St. Pierre and wounded four
others. His mother told reporters he had “mental
instability” and needed to be treated for anxiety and
depression. Nevertheless, he had a weapon.
How did we get here?
Having grown up in gun country with a father who owned
firearms and loved hunting, I know the U.S. has not always
been on this murder-suicide mission. In my childhood,
hunting was still popular in rural areas, such as my small
southern Alabama hometown, for sport and dietary
supplement. Back then, the National Rifle Association
focused on firearms training and safety and was largely,
believe it or not, non-partisan.
That changed in the 1970s, when the NRA was taken over
by ultra-conservative radicals who wanted to abolish even
modest gun regulations. The gun lobby entered a marriage
of convenience with the Republican Party, supporting GOP
pols who joined the cult while opposing those who didn’t
do its bidding. By the 21 st century, the gun lobby’s radicals
were joined by a rightwing Supreme Court which upended
a century of jurisprudence on firearms by sanctifying an
individual’s right to own a gun.
Recognizing the opportunity to make money, gun
manufacturers happily signed up, buying ads that equated
owning military weapons with virile manhood. Meanwhile,
Congress had inoculated gun manufacturers against
lawsuits over the dangers associated with their products.
For GOP candidates, it’s now de rigueur to shoot a
campaign ad toting firearms, sometimes with small
children in the family carrying them, too. Where else could
such a mad course have carried us but here to an unending
rollcall of carnage?
To be clear, most Americans say that want to live in a
safer, saner country. According to Gallup, more than half
are dissatisfied with current gun laws. According to a Fox
News poll, 61 percent support banning the sale of assault-
style rifles and 77 percent support a 30-day waiting period
for all gun purchases. But they don’t care enough to vote
out the gun lobby’s lap dogs and elect leaders who would
pass tougher laws.
After the mass shooting at a medical facility, the headline
in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted a state
legislator saying: “We don’t have to live like this.” No, we
don’t. But we choose to.