Saturday, April 11, 2009


I find myself pained and saddened by the anger, hate, and violence afoot in our land and, even more, by our inability and apparent unwillingness to do anything about it.


We all know the litany of headlines:


March 21 - Gunman kills 4 policemen in Oakland, California.


March 29 - 8 shot and killed at North Carolina nursing home.


April 3 - 14 shot and killed in Binghamton, New York.


April 4 - 5 shot dead in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


April 4 – Graham, Washington father kills his 5 children.


Still grieving from the shootings in Binghamton, where I have a friend seeking to cope with the aftermath of that massacre, I awoke the next morning, turned on the TV, and almost dropped to the floor at the rapid-fire "crack, crack, crack" of gunfire that emanated from a live report from Pittsburgh.  It was a sound that I recognized from the long-ago horror of Vietnam.  Then it dawned on me - We ourselves, at home, have killed many more fellow Americans these past two weeks than our enemies have killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.  We have done so with weapons that only our soldiers should carry.  And some of the gunmen, who pulled the triggers, wore flak jackets that only our soldiers or police officers should be entitled to wear.


Like the killers, this is insane!  Oh, I know the knee-jerk letters this will generate.  I know already the words they will contain.  I know the authors' names.  But I'm sick at heart at all the disingenuous words and I just don't want to hear them anymore!  Let me say it clearly – The Second Amendment is an antiquated abomination that should be repealed.  And, short of that, guns should be sensibly registered and regulated…just like cars and controlled substances - other objects that kill.  Having lived in several other free and democratic countries, where hunters and sportsmen have regulated access to sporting guns, I find our unfettered access to military-style weapons, whose only purpose is to be found in war, an uncivilized aberration.

Such unfettered access is particularly dangerous in a time of economic high anxiety.  People are scared.  All Americans are hurting.  And, as Charles Blow pointed out in the New York Times - as fate would have it, April 3 - many on the right "feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged. And some of their 'leaders' seem to be trying to mold them into militias."

What "leaders?"  How about Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman who, on the day four Oakland policemen were gunned down, called on her fellow Americans to be "armed and dangerous?"  How about that self-proclaimed "patriot" Chuck Norris who asks "How much more will Americans take? When will enough be enough? And, when that time comes, will our leaders finally listen or will history need to record a second American Revolution?"  Then there's Glenn Beck who, on February 13, warned that the only thing standing between "responsible citizens" and an oppressive government are guns in private hands.  "So you before you lose your rights," he says, "you go buy a gun as a responsible citizen."  "But I'm telling you," he warns, "there will come a time, if you don't have one - you ain't getting it. And I fear it's coming soon."

This, Blow warns, is "not all just harmless talk. For some, their disaffection has hardened into something more dark and dangerous. They're talking about a revolution."  Yes, folks like Beck and Bachmann are talking about revolution against the duly elected government of the United States of America…our government, their government.  What kind of "patriots" are folks like these, folks like Beck who stoke the fires of fear and urge their listeners to "think the unthinkable?"

And what is our responsibility as truly responsible citizens to counter the inflammatory rhetoric and to begin – at long last – a sensible conversation about guns?  We could start by urging our Congressman George Miller and Senators Boxer and Feinstein to support minimal legislation to get a handle on this problem.  This should include closing the gun show loophole, banning cop-killer bullets and making the assault weapons ban permanent.  Attorney General Eric Holder is of the opinion that such steps would be permitted by the most recent Supreme Court ruling in Washington, D.C. v. Heller.

Of no small import, Holder and others feel that reinstituting the assault weapon ban would also stem the flood of military-style weapons flowing into Mexico and into the hands of drug cartels which are destabilizing the Mexican government and now threatening our border area with increasingly deadly violence.  As a recent Department of State travel advisory warned, "Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades.  Large firefights have taken place in many towns and cities across Mexico, but most recently in northern Mexico, including Tijuana, Chihuahua City and Ciudad Juarez."


It's time for clear-thinking, responsible Americans – the true patriots – to stand up to the NRA and their apologists on the loony right and, paraphrasing Chuck Norris, to say "Enough is enough!"

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