We choose firearms carnage

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

sense, folks.

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.