Old man lying by the side of the roadwith the lorries rolling by,Blue moon sinking from the weight of the loadand the buildings shake the sky,Cold wind ripping down the alley at dawnand the morning paper flies,Dead man lying by the side of the roadwith the daylight in his eyes...Don't let it bring you downIt's only castles burningFind someone who's turningAnd you will come around...- Neil Young
An 11-year old boy in Utah brought a .22 pistol to school with him on Tuesday. His parents apparently gave it to him "for protection" in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre. His teacher found out he had it after he put the gun to the head of a classmate at recess and threatened to kill her.
Only two weeks ago, on December 4th, 11 people were shot in one night in Chicago, but that news barely jiggled the wires, because at the time everyone was encompassing the murder-suicide perpetrated by NFL player Jovan Belcher, who shot his girlfriend to death in front of her mother before killing himself in front of his coaches in a parking lot. At the time, everyone said it was terrible, something that really makes you think, and Bob Costas went so far as to lament the deadly nature of America's gun culture during the national broadcast of a football game. He was roundly attacked for speaking out of turn, for "not having all the facts," and for generally intruding upon everyone's enjoyment of the game.
Between 2003 and 2010, 247,131 Americans died of gunshot wounds. Since 1982, there have been more than 60 mass shootings in America. In almost every case, the weapons used were obtained legally. The number of households with guns has been declining, with a few upticks here and there, since 1990, and yet gun sales went through the roof in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, which means more people aren't buying guns, but the people who buy guns are buying more of them.
The gun business in America is booming, despite the decline in households that own guns. As the Washington Post glibly noted this week, "The U.S. gun industry has been one of the brightest spots in the U.S. economy in recent years, even through the recent downturn. This year, it racked up $11.7 billion in sales and $992 million in profits, according to the research firm IBISWorld." Almost 17 million people applied for a background check to purchase a gun in 2012. More than 156 million people have applied since 1998.
Facts: Colorado, Oregon and Wisconsin allow guns on college campuses. Mississippi likewise allows guns on college campuses, as well as in secondary schools, polling places, churches, passenger terminals at airports, and bars. Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Virginia and Ohio also allow guns in bars. You can shoot a gun in Missouri when you're drunk, and as long as it's considered to be in "self-defense," you're within your rights. In Vermont, you can sell a pistol to a 16-year old kid. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Arizona, Tennessee and Alaska have all passed laws saying that guns made in-state are not subject to federal regulations. The Florida "Stand Your Ground" law has gotten a lot of attention after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, but 24 other states besides Florida have enacted similar laws.
A violent felon in Minnesota can regain their gun ownership rights if they successfully petition the court about having "good cause." In Ohio, a violent felon can retain their gun rights if they prove to a court that they have led a "law-abiding life." You can get your guns back in Georgia and Nebraska even if you've committed manslaughter and armed robbery, and in Montana, your guns will be returned to you if you didn't use a gun when you committed your crime. That seems to fly in the face of the old saw that says, "If you make guns criminal, only criminals will have guns."
Then again, all the worst bloodbaths of the last several years - including this most recent massacre in Newtown - were perpetrated by people who were not outlaws...until they pulled the trigger and laid their victims low. That 11-year old boy in Utah was not an outlaw until his parents put that pistol in his hands and sent him to school. He didn't make it to the end of recess.
Thomas Lane. One L. Goh. Jake England. Alvin Watts. Ian Stawicki. James Holmes. Wade Michael Page. Andrew Engeldinger. Jacob Tyler Roberts. Adam Lanza. These are America's most well-known mass killers from the year 2012 alone. Seventy-two lives were snuffed out by their actions. Every single one of them used a gun. None of them were outlaws...until.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 180 more people have been killed by guns since the Newtown massacre.
Shooting is business, and business is good.
So, yeah...not to put too fine a point on it, but anyone who claims guns are not the problem needs a nap. Of course the insane prevalence of guns in America is a problem. Of course it is. Every from-my-cold-dead-hands gun-lover crowing about the man in China who slashed 22 shoolchildren on the same day as the Newtown massacre glossed over the fact that all those Chinese kids survived the experience...and that one incident of non-gun violence piled up against the five-dozen high-profile gun massacres endured by Americans since the Reagan administration means you're wrong, cope with it, and become part of the solution for a change.
You need an AK-47, you need an AR-15, to defend yourself against the government? Cool story, bro. The government has nuclear weapons, stealth bombers, Aegis warships, drones, SEALs and the United States fa-chrisakes Marines. Good luck with that; send me a note from the front. You don't need it. You want it, and therein lies the end of the argument.
There are plenty of solutions to this ravaging epidemic of bloodletting available, if you ask the right people. Several lawmakers across the country have advocated arming teachers with assault weapons. Judson Philips, leader of Tea Party Nation, believes crippling teachers' unions through right-to-work laws, the mainstreaming of right-wing homeschooling, and the denunciation of all things liberal will lead us out of this darkness. Sam Morris, pastor of the Old Paths Baptist Church in Tennessee, believes government schools that teach evolution and "how to be a homo" are to blame. Focus on the Family leader James Dobson will tell you that abortion and gay marriage have brought God's judgment down upon us. None of them mentioned guns as a problem in the culture.
You know what?
I'm not buying it.
These evangelical haters have had the run of the joint since 1981, and there are almost 300 million guns loose in the country today. As the years have passed, these two crews have become more and more joined at the hip. They have been riding in the same applecart for years now, careening headlong down a fantasy highway where Supply-Side Jesus packs a Bushmaster .223, and anyone who disagrees is some Sharia-loving homosexual abortionist gun-grabber. Look at how they sell these things, and tell me different.
"An armed society is a polite society," goes the slogan. I'm sure it has been very polite at the Newtown funerals, and at all the other funerals in all the other cities and towns where people have had their souls shredded by acts of madness and horror made infinitely easier by weapons the Founders never imagined when they allowed well-regulated militias to have muskets.
This Second Amendment fetish in America is utter hogwash, and will not survive a concerted effort by lawmakers to properly define it again.
It is enough. We have come to a place of definitions after this last, latest outrage. We are strong enough, and wise enough, and good enough to encompass this horror and bend it into something that serves us as a nation. No greater monument could stand over the graves of the lost than one that reads, "From This, No More."
"The so-called American Way begins to seem like a dike made of cheap cement," wrote Hunter S. Thompson almost 50 years ago. "America has been breeding mass anomie since the end of World War II. It is not a political thing, but the sense of new realities, of urgency, anger and sometimes desperation in a society where even the highest authorities seem to be grasping at straws."
It is the guns. And it is this nation's pathetic approach to mental health issues in an age where the basic facts of the times are enough alone to derange people. It is the way we medicate ourselves in an orbit of profit-motives that says more pills are better. It is the way we exist as a nation that has been at permanent war for more than 70 years, the way violence is our calling card, the way we spend trillions on killing while neglecting and ignoring our own. It is our myths, and it is our realities.
But it is the guns.
And we have to start somewhere.