Guns have always been a part of America’s mythic heritage, and gun metaphors are found throughout the culture. In football you have the ‘shotgun’ and ‘pistol’ formations; hell, we even invented the Salad-Shooter. I grew up in the Midwest where we all learned how to handle guns when we were still kids, but these were mostly rifles, used for hunting. I don’t have a problem with the 2nd Amendment. If someone wants to have a flintlock musket, and he’s a member of an official state militia, it’s fine with me, as long as the weapon is locked at the local armory when not used to repel invaders. You can check it out to go squirrel-shooting. If it were up to me I’d ban all handguns, but we’re never going to get that genie back into the bottle. But can’t we at least be rational?
No one should ever be able to buy a gun anywhere, from anyone, without passing a background check. Nobody needs an assault rifle to hunt deer. If you’re that bad a hunter, stick to buying your meat at the market. What’s next? Why can’t I buy a shoulder-mounted rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a tank, a jet, a nuclear bomb? And no one needs an extended clip holding 30 bullets, like the one Jared Lee Loughner used to shoot AZ Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and kill several others, including a nine-year-old girl.
If you’ll remember, that happened a couple weeks after Sarah Palin’s website had a map of Democratic districts “targeted” for the election highlighted with rifle sight icons. A few months later, Atlanta hate radio host Neil Boortz talked about there being “too many thugs, yo, on the streets.” He called for more dead thugs on the streets of Atlanta. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) called for people to be “armed and dangerous” in getting out to vote for her party.
The NRA, National Rifle Association, doesn’t give a damn how many dead bodies litter the streets, they’re raking in the dough. They drum up business by playing to ignorant people’s fear, racism and paranoia, as do over 900 right-wing hate radio shows across the nation. When We the People elected the first black President, fear and paranoia went into hyperdrive. Gun sales went through the roof, shelves were emptied of ammunition. Obama’s gonna take your guns! One of the radio talk show hosts I listen to grew up in Michigan, and he tells of a visit to his relatives, the first year of Obama’s Presidency. He and his brother like to do a little target shooting, and when they went to the gun store they were told they could only buy two boxes each, supplies were so low. When asked why, the guy behind the counter said, “Haven’t you heard? There’s a [N-word] in the White House.” The irony is that not only has Obama not taken their guns, he’s gone along with even more relaxed gun laws. The Right even tried to bait him by having people carrying guns outside places where he was speaking. They were betting that police or Secret Service agents would jump them, so they could say, “See?” Obama was right, though, when he talked about fearful people clinging to their guns and Bibles. The Right got all bent out of shape with their phony outrage. This is how some people react to reality and truth — they get themselves all puffed up.
The NRA stokes those coals, keeps stoking them, led by the criminally insane Wayne LaPierre. Do you think the top guys there are pot-bellied hicks who play war games on weekends? These people wear $2000 suits and imported Italian shoes. They know that fear, bigotry, racism, and hatred are good marketing strategies. For years they’ve been working closely with a group called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is made up of state legislators (nearly all of the Republicans) and lobbyists for big corporations. They draft model legislation ready to introduce on the floors of the state houses. In GOP-controlled states, ALEC is behind the infestations of anti-union laws, abortion regulation or other anti-woman laws, and laws loosening gun regulations. They’ve lobbied on behalf of private prisons for longer sentencing laws Over the last ten years they’ve been getting so-called “Stand your ground” laws passed. Right now there are from 17 – 23 states with similar variants. Sane people call them “Shoot first” laws, because no longer do you have to be under attack to pull a gun and shoot someone. Now you just need to FEEL threatened.
On February 26th, George Zimmerman says he felt threatened. A self-appointed neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida, Zimmerman had made 46 911 calls since January 2011. You can hear him on several tapes, often saying there were one or two suspicious black youths in the area. He seemed to have a thing about young black men. On this day, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was walking back from the store near where he and his father were visiting friends, in a mostly white gated community. It was raining, and Trayvon was wearing a hoodie. Zimmerman spotted him and called 911. He said there was a suspicious black kid, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, I think he may be on drugs or something.” You can hear him saying “These assholes . . . they always get away.” The dispatcher asks him, “Are you following him?” “Yeah.” “OK, we don’t need you to do that.” But Zimmerman followed him anyway. On the enhanced tape it sounds like he’s saying “f**king coon.” Then on other 911 calls made by neighbors, you hear a young voice screaming for help, then a gunshot. Zimmerman shot Trayvon dead with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. Trayvon was armed with a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Iced Tea.
Now you would think there’s a difference between stand your ground, and pursue and confront, but when police arrived, not only was Zimmerman NOT arrested, he wasn’t tested for drugs or alcohol, either. But the corpse of Trayvon Martin was tested for drugs. By the way, the photo on all the news shows is his mug shot from assaulting a police officer in 2005. Police say this law prevents them from arresting Zimmerman, because he claims Trayvon attacked him. Since this Florida version was passed and signed by then Gov. Jeb Bush in 2005, ‘justifiable homicides’ have tripled. The only Southern state without this law is Arkansas. If someone were looking for a way to keep the population of young black men down, they would write laws like these. The ugly irony is that if anyone had a claim to invoke the stand your ground law, it was Trayvon, not Zimmerman. Trayvon was the one who had reason to fear for his safety. If he’d been packing, and drilled Zimmerman first, how do you think the Sanford Police Dept would have handled it? In a country, as journalist Bob Herbert wrote, “already saturated in gun violence,” we don’t need insane laws like stand your ground. If there are no witnesses, you can kill anyone you want — legally. Police and prosecutors really hate this law.
As I was writing this, Rick Santorum was campaigning in Louisiana, and visited a shooting range. While he was firing, a woman cried out, “Pretend it’s Obama!” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, who keeps track of hate groups and the like, “patriot” groups grew from 149 in 2008, to 1274 in 2011. These clowns dress in camo and play war games on weekends. They’re getting ready for . . some kind of white supremacist revolution, I guess. In truth, at the sight of a SWAT team or a squad of combat Marines, these yahoos would wet themselves, drop their penis extensions, and run off crying into the woods.
We have millions of people stressed to the gills; out of work, with no health insurance or any kind of economic security, losing their homes. I don’t we need to be putting more guns into their hands. Along with all those states with stand your ground laws, you can carry guns into the National Parks now, into churches, even into bars. Gee, nothing could go wrong there. So strap on your sidearms, everybody, it’s the Wild West out there. And if somebody pisses you off, or even looks at you funny, you don’t have time to wait for the police, and that other person might be armed. Better to just pull out that hogleg and start firing. Woo-Hoo! Wait. Some guy just walked past my window. Bang! Oh crap, was that the mailman?