Like nearly everyone else I know, I’ve been reacting with numb shock and sickening horror to the massacre in Connecticut. I had wanted to say something insightful — especially in light of my glib comment the other day urging that liberals get over their aversion to guns, as it seems the only people carrying them are either criminals, militarized police forces and/or CPD cases — but it turns out I have precisely nothing to add to the conversation already taking place. And so it is elsewhere that I will direct your attention, if I may.
In Shut down the pump: a little parable for our time, digby tells two true tales: one of a deadly cholera epidemic in 19th century Britain, and another of gun laws in modern Australia. Obviously the stories are not analogous in some key ways, but the takeaway is nonetheless provocative. In the first one, the cholera epidemic did not end by finding a cure for the disease; it ended when authorities shut down a water pump that drew from a contaminated well (after much denial, disbelief and delay, I might add). In the second, after a massacre in 1996, newly elected Australian Prime Minister John Howard forced the states to adopt a sensible National Firearms Agreement: a ban on semi-automatic rifles, a ban on semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and a tightly restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls. digby ends with this (emphasis mine):
This did not solve the problem of mental illness or end the primitive capacity of human beings to commit murder and mayhem. Those are huge problems that their society, like all societies, is still grappling with every day. But it did end the epidemic of mass shootings. They have not had even one since then.
The lesson is this: End the epidemic and then we can — and must — talk about root causes and mental health facilities and our violent culture. But first things first — shut down the damned pump.
The National Rifle Association portrays itself as an organization that represents “4 million members” who simply love the Second Amendment. The truth is much more murky. In reality, the NRA is composed of half a dozen legal entities; some designed to run undisclosed attack ads in political campaigns, others to lobby and collect tens of millions in undisclosed, tax-deductible sums. This power has only been enhanced in the era of Citizens United, with large GOP donors in the last election reportedly funneling money to the NRA simply to use the group as a brand to pummel Democrats with nasty ads. (As The Huffington Post’s Peter Stone reported, even the Koch network now provides an undisclosed amount to the NRA.)
Despite the grassroots façade, there is much evidence to suggest that corporations that profit from unregulated gun use are propping up the NRA’s activities, much like how the tobacco lobby secretly funded “Smokers Rights’” fronts and libertarian anti-tax groups, or how polluters currently finance much of the climate change skepticism movement. In a “special thanks” to their donors, the National Rifle Association Foundation lists Bushmaster Firearms Inc., the company that makes the assault rifle reportedly found with the shooter responsible for the mass murder today in Newtown, Connecticut. How much Bushmaster Firearms Inc. (a firm now known as Windham) contributes is left unsaid.
The Violence Policy Center has estimated that since 2005, gun manufacturers have contributed up to $38.9 million to the NRA. Those numbers, however, are based on publicly listed “sponsorship” levels on NRA fundraising pamphlets. The real figures could be much bigger. Like Crossroads GPS or Americans for Prosperity, or the Sierra Club for that matter, the NRA does not disclose any donor information even though it spends millions on federal elections.
“The damned pump” is comprised of weapons manufacturers and their lavishly funded servants in elected office. Here’s a helpful list of NRA funding recipients in the last election cycle, three pages long: if you find someone on it who was elected to be your servant, why not give them a little ringy in protest? Tell them to support sensible gun control legislation and give the NRA its money back. It’s blood money — literally — and the blood is on their hands.
[E]ven as more Americans now own more guns than ever before and can easily and legally obtain powerful firearms in almost all of the states, mass shootings have continued unabated. 2012 now has the highest number of incidents, with six mass shootings.
In 1995, “there were an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. Today, there are around 300 million” — a 50 percent jump during a period when the population grew by just 20 percent, but gun laws were drastically loosened. In the past four years alone, “across 37 states, the NRA and its political allies have pushed through 99 laws making guns easier to own, easier to carry in public, and harder for the government to track.” Eight states now allow firearms in bars. Permit holders in Kansas “can carry concealed weapons inside K-12 schools, and Louisiana allows them in houses of worship.” Michigan may soon “make it easier for people to receive a gun permit and open up “gun free zones,” including schools.
Since 1982, the nation has experienced at least 62 mass murders in 30 states and in at least 49 cases, “the gunmen obtained the weapons legally, and the majority of those weapons used were semi-automatic.”
A Mother Jones analysis of 61 mass murders over the last 30 years found that “in not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.” As one leading expert explained, “given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances,” arming civilians could often lead to more chaos and deaths.
“In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.” And there are 300,000,000 of them.
Not surprisingly, others have a slightly different prescription for ending the epidemic of gun violence in the U.S. Via the liberal Christian group Faithful America:
As the nation grieves for twenty schoolchildren gunned down in Connecticut, the religious right has the audacity to blame America’s public schools for protecting students’ religious freedom.
The American Family Association’s leading spokesman used his radio show to argue that God allows violence in public schools because the Supreme Court has prohibited mandatory school prayers.
And speaking live on Fox News, Mike Huckabee said that this shooting happened because “we’ve systematically removed God from our schools.” He added, “Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end, and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done.”
Now so far, I remain unconvinced by this god theory of theirs. For one thing, it doesn’t account for the 2007 mass shooting at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Or the 2008 killings at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. And that’s to say nothing of the military bases, restaurants and workplaces, where as far as I am aware gods are generally permitted unfettered access. But more importantly, if some god demands American schoolchildren recite mandatory prayers to it in exchange for protecting them from violent massacres, then clearly that god is a sadistic, narcissistic @$$hole — and we should do everything in our power keep it as far away from kids as possible.
The Palace flags remain at half mast.