MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT Sniper rifles can be bought by civilians
When it comes to a timely reminder of how flawed the NRA and gun advocates argument that a gun offers a magical shield of self-defense is, the recent killing of a military sniper at a Texas gun range – glorified for his book detailing his alleged 150 "insurgent" kill total – offers it. Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL sniper and gun enthusiast hero, was unable to protect himself or his friend from an armed assailant, even though they were at a shooting range loaded with guns.
Although the circumstances of this incident may represent a tragically ironic mega-example of the gun lobby's flawed fantasy about the alleged omnipotent self-protection power of guns, it is only because of its mega-symbolic resonance to the drumbeat of gun worshippers that sets it apart.
After all, what the gun lobby doesn't tell you is that guns are relatively rarely used in self-defense by citizens – and it is not uncommon (as in the Trayvon Martin case) that they are used to kill innocent people out of pure gun owner paranoia.
The New York Daily News provides an account of the Kyle killing:
He lived by the gun, and he died by the gun.
The military’s most famous sniper — Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who claimed to have killed more than 150 insurgents from long distances in the Iraq war — was gunned down point-blank by a mentally unstable vet at a Texas shooting range Saturday.
Eddie Ray Routh is a suspect in the shooting and killing of former Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle.
Kyle, 38, was visiting the Rough Creek Lodge range outside Fort Worth with friend Chad Littlefield when deranged vet Eddie Ray Routh, 25, fatally shot both men, police said.
Routh, a former Marine, fled and was later arrested at his home outside Dallas, where cops retrieved the semiautomatic handgun used to kill both men.
Kyle, a highly decorated Iraq veteran, wrote the best-selling book, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.”
Let's parse this a bit more because the incident represents so many of the lethal tentacles of the gun lobby's grip on Congress and most state legislatures.
Let's start with the gun Kyle became famous for legally killing people with as a military sniper: the telescopic, finely calibrated sniper rifle. It is commonly sold in the United States as a .50 caliber and can – we are not making this up – be bought by almost any American who can buy a rifle in almost every state. There are fewer restrictions on purchasing a sniper rifle than on buying a handgun, which is to say it's a bit like buying food at a supermart.
I know because I conducted campaigns to prohibit the sale of .50 caliber rifles to civilians, in part because they can be used in assassinations (Kyle proved this point quite decisively), and in part because they can be used by terrorists to shoot down planes landing or taking off. With still winds, a bullet from a .50 caliber sniper rifle can travel on clear terrain up to a mile.
The NRA, according to Tom Dickinson of Rolling Stone, is now virtually fully controlled by the gun industry, In this respect, Dickinson speaks about the inventor of the .50 caliber sniper rifle:
Another board seat belongs to Ronnie Barrett, CEO of Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, whose company produces .50-caliber sniper rifles capable of piercing armor from nearly a mile away. Barrett's firm also sells scope-mounted ballistics computers that enable clueless civilians to hit targets like they were special-forces snipers.
Ronnie Barrett represents a gun industry that is peddling high-tech military style weapons to the US public in the name of profit, not self-protection. Meanwhile, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre is paid more than a million dollars a year in salary and bonuses to whip up the simmering paranoia of white male gun owners who see the nation's power being shifted to a multi-cultural society – which explains why the first black president has been used as a such a powerful vehicle for initiating runs on firearms, particularly assault weapons.
What white gun owners fear deep in their guts and pulsing like electrical shocks along their nerve system is that the white male is losing his grip on power. And the gun represents a psychological Excalibur to ward off these psychological threats.
No one knows better than Wayne LaPierre how to whip up hysteria in this pool of psychotic fear.
But no gun helped, as one BuzzFlash reader e-mailed us, "America's 'greatest' gun expert/sniper from being killed, who was unable to defend himself from an armed attacker." The armed attacker, who Kyle knew, used a semi-automatic handgun, which the NRA defends, as it does all firearms (including .50 caliber sniper rifles). A semi-automatic weapon can shoot off bullets at a much faster rate than the standard handgun, and this is a particularly dangerous feature on assault weapons, because large capacity magazines can be attached to them.
As the shooting deaths of Chris Kyle and his friend at a gun range well-stocked with firearms and guys with guns in their holsters evidences, we have a problem with a gun culture that is manic and defies common sense.
Next on the gun lobby's agenda is making silencers legal in every state. That's the goal of The American Silencer Association: "For the first time in the commercial silencer industry’s 103 year history, individual manufacturers, distributors, and dealers are formally banding together to collectively advocate for the silencer industry."
Enhanced gun laws are needed to be sure, but so is massive psychiatric intervention, not to mention reining in the gun industry. They are far from silent amidst a maelstrom of gunfire.
(Photo: Virginia Guard Public Affairs)