Want to Change the Gun Debate? Body Bags…

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Once again, something that there is “no way to prevent” in a country that could prevent it in a heartbeat has been devastated by tragedy. Mass shootings have become almost commonplace nowadays in our existence, so much so that the recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL (a suburban community north of Miami) that killed 17 teenagers and teachers and injured a similar number has barely registered in our consciousness. Something else that hasn’t registered in our consciousness? That this is the 18th (EIGHTEENTH, for those of you potentially with vision problems) such attack at a school IN 2018 alone.

Now of course the usual diatribe has begun. The conservatives and guns-rights fanatics have rolled out their gems of “mental illness” or that “there’s no way to stop this” or the “what good would new laws do” argument. Liberals, on their side, have opened their discussion of what they believe to be rational gun controls and funding of mental health treatment, but they can’t seem to coalesce around whether they should just try to work on certain weapons or rewrite the Constitution and just how much money it would take to eradicate mental health issues. And once again, those old chestnuts of “thoughts and prayers” and “now’s not the time to talk about these things” (if not now, then when the fuck is the time to talk about it?) comes to the fore.

Myself? I’ve grown tired of the constant stream of “thoughts and prayers” and the hand wringing and the “what will we do” cries that go unanswered. When you get ready to do something about the issue, give me a call. Until then, let’s not pretend to give a fuck about the issue. We didn’t care when 26 6-year olds were gunned down, why the fuck would we care over 17 teenagers?

But I digress. There’s one thing that we can do that would have a tremendous effect on changing the gun debate in this country. Whether we have the balls to do it or not is another thing.

During the Vietnam War, those on the home front of the United States were brought daily reminders of what the casualties of war were. In grainy black and white on their televisions (or, for those families that had a bit more money, color TV), U. S. soldiers were seen getting blown to shit by Soviet-made munitions, their fellow soldiers carrying their body parts back to the corpsmen to try to save so that they could defend a small Asian country against the “expansion of communism.” Some of those men came back with their minds permanently separated from their bodies. Some came back with the body parts either reconnected or gone, but even further disturbed by the horrors of war. Some, alas, didn’t come back.

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These daily images had a monumental effect on the psyche of the country. Seeing hundreds of blood-soaked bodies cross their screens nightly – and, for some, potentially becoming that next body to be broadcast back to the U. S. – changed the viewpoint of the Vietnam War from one of patriotic resolve to that of an imperialistic invading force trying to force our way of life on another country. It begat the protests that started during the early 1960s, but it was one event that was seen on television that changed the course of the war.

In 1968, CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite went to the war-torn country following the Tet Offensive to give viewers his viewpoint on the course of the war. On February 27 of that year, Cronkite offered this opinion to the country:

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”

This, along with the rest of his commentary and the non-stop images of war coming from the front night after night had a seismic effect on the Vietnam War. After it was aired, then-President Lyndon Johnson is reported to have said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” It would force Johnson not to run for President in 1968, although it would take another five years before the war would be ended.

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The views of those body bags – filled with the remains of once vibrant and alive men who were defending this great country – was immeasurable. This effect of seeing the ramifications of war has an impact on the people – why do you believe that, since Vietnam, there hasn’t been any scenes of U. S. troops in the midst of battle that haven’t been completely scrubbed by the U. S. government? Why do you think that there haven’t been the scenes of caskets or body bags with the remains of soldiers, Marines, sailors and others that have been killed as a part of the “war”?” Why hasn’t there been the “live from the front” reporting, unless it is someone embedded (AKA “cleared” by the government) with a platoon?

Control what the people see and you control the discussion. That is true in virtually every armed combat situation that the U. S. military has been in since Vietnam and it holds true in the case of these mass shootings.

The National Rifle Association and the Republican Party learned this fact a long time ago. After what was arguably Ground Zero for these mass shootings, the attack by two shooters on their high school in Columbine, CO, in 1999, many saw the images of the two shooters strolling the hallways and gunning down their fellow classmates. People saw, through news reports, the blood-soaked hallways where people tried to drag themselves to safety. They SAW what happened, they saw the bodies, they saw the after effects. (And here’s a bit of sadness for you…Wednesday’s shooting in Parkland knocked Columbine out of the Top Ten largest mass shootings in U. S. history.)

There was a great deal of outrage after that attack and the gun lobby and the politicos noticed. The NRA and the GOP were able to stanch a massive change to gun laws and they learned from the Vietnam War. Thus, in virtually every situation since Columbine, there has been no video or photographic evidence that has been made public.

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Sandy Hook…no. Las Vegas…none. And to this point, we’ve seen nothing of Parkland. It’s time we change that situation.

The only way to have an effect on the Ignorati in this country – those gun-totin’, knuckle-dragging Cro-Magnon fuckheads who spout, “You’ll get my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” – is to either have someone that they love get mowed down by a hail of bullets from an semi-automatic weapon or, saving that, continually show the blood soaked hallways of the last shooting. Show the area where a group of people, cornered and unable to escape, were massacred by a gunman who made quick work with his assortment of weaponry. Bring the bodies out AND FILM THE GODDAMN THING. Broadcast the march of the dead and show people that yes, there were people who DIED in this attack (it would also shut the hell up these tinfoil hat fucks who scream “false flag operation” after every mass shooting).

The only thing that this country can understand is being beaten over the head with a sledgehammer. This country cannot change without seeing what the effects are of the actions they condone. Civil rights in this country didn’t move forward until blacks being treated like dog toys or being driven to the ground by a fire hose blast was seen by a massive number of people. The same applies to this situation – let’s start seeing the bloodied bodies being brought out of what was once considered a sanctuary – a school, a church, even a place of employment – and then there might be some honest discussion on the issue.

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Coming Back from Self-Imposed Exile and…Things Are Still the Same

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Yes, it’s been quite some time since I stepped to the writer’s dais here on my site. Let’s call it a self-imposed exile, one that was required due to the factor that my personal well of outrage over certain circumstances in our nation had reached its dry point. There are times that, when you’ve railed about things long enough, that you have to stop and recharge – I personally used that recharge time to reexamine some issues, some thoughts, and perhaps find some new insight that had previously eluded my vision.

Then Sunday happened…

In Orlando on Sunday morning, a man stepped into a nightclub (everyone wants to say “gay nightclub,” like it matters) armed to the teeth with an AR-15, and handgun and some other weaponry that hasn’t been disclosed. He also must have had a shitload of ammunition because, by the time the Orlando police forced their way into the club at around 5AM, there were 49 people dead, 53 more injured and untold numbers that may have been injured but were able to escape the club before it became a hostage situation and find medical attention. The shooting at Pride nightclub in Orlando took over the dark banner of the biggest mass killing in United States history.

While it should have been the utter idiocy of someone taking the lives of 50 people and injuring a similar number, what was mind-numbing was the speed of politicization of the shooting. The GOP and the National Rifle Association supporters must have hot-keyed their responses to the “next” mass shooting, because they were at the ready with the well-worn dismissals of any such occurrence: “it wasn’t the gun’s fault,” “it was (insert your barely hidden religious or racial screed here),” or, because of the fucking Orangutan Mutant that continue to fire shit out of his mouth, “the Muslims have to go!” While they did this, they didn’t have something that a normal person, being of a halfway evidentiary mindset, had:  the ability to let evidence come in to make a more informed decision.

From all apparent evidence, the shooter was a U. S. citizen, born and raised, who self-radicalized himself. According to his ex-wife and co-workers, he had anger issues that bordered on bipolar disorder. He had been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for some statements he had made to co-workers regarding other people, but the FBI found no crimes to be able to charge the shooter. Finally, his own father said that he had always been anti-gay, particularly outraged two weeks earlier because he saw two men kissing in public.

That last one is particularly important. Evidence has shown that the shooter bought the weapons he used, including an AR-15, within the last two weeks, AFTER the incident that his father reports the shooter was upset over. It is also of interest that the shooter had a profile on a gay dating site and had visited Pulse nightclub; because he was gunned down in the club, it will never be known if the shooter was ashamed of his sexual proclivities or was simply using all tools at his disposal to research his hideous crime.

But let’s get back to the politicization…

None other than the Orangutan Mutant, Drumpf himself, crowed about how “he was right.” He actually accepted CONGRATULATIONS following the attack, letting a couple hours lapse before he even put out his condolences to the families. Then the asshole went a step further, saying that only he could protect the LGBT community, despite the decades that the GOP has spent trying to deny every right to these people across the board.

Furthermore, the GOP as a whole stood up more for the NRA rather than the LGBT community that was mowed down Sunday morning. The Republicans couldn’t even bring themselves to say the acronym “LGBT,” instead just offering that maddeningly pandering “thoughts and prayers” instead of actually doing something about the issue.

Now, in the last 48 hours or so of the discussion, the usual battle lines are drawn. The GOP and conservatives state that there’s “nothing that can be done” to stop such attacks. The Democrats and liberals are once again saying that there should be more controls on weapons (and, let’s add for emphasis here, NOT LOOKING TO ABOLISH THE SECOND AMENDMENT). The extremists on the right want to follow Mr. Oompah Loompah with his ban on “any immigration from a country with terrorist activities” (news flash, asshole:  that’s virtually every other country in the world…you’re going to stop ALL immigration or just the brown people?), while the extremists on the left ARE looking for that ban on all guns.

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As usual with this situation, the answer lies in the middle.

I’m all for the Second Amendment and responsible ownership of weapons. This would entail a license for every weapon owned, no sale of weapon without a properly transferred license, medical and psychological evaluation of gun owner BEFORE obtaining said weapon, a nationwide system of checks against those who shouldn’t have weapons, having insurance on weapon should they be used in an inappropriate way…I can go on, if you like. There is a litany of regulations that could be instituted to ensure responsible gun ownership.

We do more to ensure someone can operate a 3500-pound weapon on the roads of the U. S. than we do a device that can spit hundreds of rounds per minute indiscriminately. If you reach a certain age, you have to either surrender your driver’s license or PROVE EVERY YEAR that you’re not a hazard on the roadways. If you get too many drunk driving convictions, your license can be revoked. If you have certain health issues like seizures, you’re driving privileges can be taken. You also have to have insurance on every vehicle owned, otherwise in many states you can’t even get plates for the vehicle. With guns? Little to none of this is true.

Yes, more laws are sometimes necessary. Did we have laws mandating wearing seat belts? No, but we passed them and auto deaths were reduced. Did we have laws on pasteurizing milk? No, but we passed them and made it to where contaminated milk didn’t kill you. Just saying “you can’t do it” isn’t good enough. You have to be willing to look at situations and say “You know, this isn’t right.” And if you disagree with this, I do believe that you don’t value life (or you find the children of Sandy Hook, the clubgoers of Orlando and the theatergoers in Aurora to be an “acceptable loss”), otherwise you might actually say that some controls are necessary.

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Furthermore, we are not talking the abolishment of the Second Amendment.We are talking taking a military-style weapon off the table in the AR-15. The AR-15, the weapon of choice in several mass killings, is the civilian equivalent of the military’s M-16. Its sole purpose is to fire as many rounds as possible and kill as many people as possible. With some modifications – some legal, many illegal – the weapon can fire hundreds of rounds per minute. There’s absolutely no “hunting” or “sport” involved with this weapon.

We’re not talking about handguns, shotguns, ammunition, none of that. ONE WEAPON whose sole existence is to kill, rapidly and as many targets as possible. That’s a pretty easy elimination. If we enact some common sense legislation, will it stop ALL shooting crimes? No, there’s always going to be gun-related homicides and suicides. But if we can cut the numbers down, it’s a start. And sometimes that is necessary in a civilized society.

The Paradox of Ted Nugent

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There are occasions in our lives when we regret some of the things we’ve enjoyed. Everyone has that particular hair cut that, if there are photos still in existence, they cringe when the Polaroids come out. There are clothes that have been – or, in many cases, still are – in our closets that are so far out of style that they might be coming back into favor any day now. But what happens when it is some of your favorite music, actors or other performers who have gone so far off the rails that you’re in a paradox of how to justify supporting them anymore?

The man that is known as Ted Nugent has worn many a hat in his nearly 70 years on planet Earth. First known as a guitar virtuoso with the Amboy Dukes in the late 1960s, Nugent segued into a highly successful career as a solo artist through the 1970s and 1980s, the era of “Album Oriented Rock.” As the grunge movement of the 1990s began, however, the “Motor City Madman” suddenly fell out of favor, which ushered in the next, more controversial phase of his life.

Long an outdoorsman that talked about his connection with the “spiritual” nature of the world (AKA in relation to the Native American mode of thought and lifestyle), Nugent suddenly moved into more dangerous territory as a vehement supporter of the National Rifle Association and its vigilant (some might say dangerous) support for the Second Amendment. That was fine when there was a Republican in the White House, President George Bush (Bush II), but when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Nugent went off the deep end…in fact, it started before President Obama was even elected.

In 2007 during a concert appearance, Nugent allegedly said to the audience, “This country should be ashamed. I wanna throw up. Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun.” When the elections came around again in 2012, Nugent piped up again in stating, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will be either dead or in jail by this time next year.” Nugent has also gone to the lengths of calling the President of the United States a “sub-human mongrel,” a term so vile and racism-laced that virtually no one supported him. Obama hasn’t been the only one who was the target of Nugent (no pun intended), in fact it seems that anyone with a “D” in front of their name has drawn the ire of Nugent’s political scat.

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Political viewpoints aside, Nugent has also gone after homosexuals, the poor, “foreigners” (“Foreigners are assholes, foreigners are scum.”) and feminists (“What’s a feminist? A fat pig who doesn’t get it often enough.”). But it seems that Nugent finally found a group that he couldn’t take on…or maybe it was a subject that he shouldn’t have broached.

In February, Nugent went on a rampage on his Facebook page, accusing prominent Jewish leaders of promoting the anti-gun agenda in the United States. In his screed, Nugent scathingly and derisively touched on their association with anti-gun activities in saying, “They hate freedom, they hate good over evil, they would deny us the basic human right (hey, Nugent’s words) to self-defense & to KEEP & BEAR ARMS while many of them have tax paid hired ARMED security!” While some of his fans tried to point out that he might have gone too far, Nugent instead ranted further, stating, “Never fucking again, assholes!”

The targets of Nugent’s rant? Such prominent Jewish leaders as former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (called “Mikey” on the rant, as many of the photos had some sort of derisive commentary that mentioned their ties to Israel), California Senator Dianne Feinstein, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and prominent attorney Alan Dershowitz, among others. Naturally, the comments drew a huge amount of outrage, not only from those that disagree with Nugent but also those who support the NRA that went as far as calling for Nugent’s removal from the Board of Directors of the organization. Perhaps realizing that he’d finally stepped too far (and apparently the NRA was about to pull the trigger on his removal), Nugent issued an apology and said he “wasn’t anti-Semitic” (but that was after he had already said…well, here).

As a fan of hard rock music, I like Nugent’s work. While we’re not talking Beethoven or Mozart, some of his work is among the best classic rock and hard rock tracks in existence. When his solo career slowed in the 80s, he formed the powerhouse super group Damn Yankees with Tommy Shaw of Styx and Jack Blades of Night Ranger and put out a couple of albums of really good music. And Nugent puts on a great live show, if you can get by the political rants that he goes off on nowadays.

I’ve also had the chance to meet him on a couple of occasions through my days in radio. Both times were like a force of nature had swept through the room as Nugent – who says he has never had any drugs or alcohol – bounded through the fans with an energy that would rival that of a 20-year old. He also always seemed to have time for his fans before, during and after every show.

But that doesn’t negate his actions of today nor those of his past. When I was younger, I could overlook Nugent’s history due to that youthful ignorance. Today – and especially with the power of the internet – it is difficult to do that.

There are several questions regarding his proclivities with wanting his ladies to be – and I will put this as delicately as possible –a little on the younger side. Spin Magazine found that Nugent somehow persuaded the parents of a 17-year old girl to allow him to became her legal guardian, naming it the 63rd “sleaziest” moment in rock history (and that’s saying something). And there are legends that Courtney Love – yes, the widow of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobainonce performed a sex act on Nugent when she was 12.

Now, if that weren’t enough, there’s also the question regarding Nugent’s method for avoiding service in Vietnam. Of draft age when the war was at its apex in the late 1960s, Nugent was able to get a deferment, but just exactly how is the question. According to a 1977 High Times interview, Nugent supposedly let personal hygiene go for up to a month – including performing bathroom functions in his clothing – to get the military psychologists to give him the deferment. In 2006 – not surprisingly at the height of his paramilitary, right-wing rebirth – he told the British newspaper The Independent that he made that story up. Whether he is a draft dodger or not – he did actually get a 4F deferment, the question being was if for a worthy reason or not – is the big question.

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This is where the paradox takes place and it is something that we have seen in many of our pop culture icons throughout history. Arguably the first noted case of this type of situation (since we have a hard time going back before “yellow journalism” or the paparazzi) was popular) was in the case of actor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, who was a popular actor and performer in the 1920s. Despite his bulk, he was a noted dancer and his comedic timing was impeccable, leading many to admire him and Hollywood to pay him $1 million in 1920 for his talents.

That was before a highly publicized rape trial, however. From 1921 through the next year, Arbuckle was the defendant in the rape and manslaughter trial of actor Virginia Rappe. Two trials ended in hung juries and the third finally acquitted Arbuckle, but the damage was already done. Arbuckle would never again reach the level of success he previously found, passing in 1933 of a heart attack at the age of 46.

That type of situation – celebrities with public admiration tainted or destroyed by scandal – has been seen through the 20th century to present times. Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh, the “Hollywood Blacklist” that ensnared Dalton Trumbo and the “Hollywood Ten,” to O. J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, Sinead O’Connor or Jared Fogle…all have seen or saw their careers either crippled or ended by scandal in their lives. But what do people who admire them do?

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There is no easy answer for this situation. I can still enjoy listening to Nugent’s music, but there is a constantly nagging voice in the back of my head that will not silence some of the things he’s done. Others might be able to easily separate the juxtaposition – it seems that fans of Donald Drumpf find it far too easy to do that – but does that say more about their either pleasure of enjoying an artist or thinking that an egregious error is “OK” (sorry, there’s some things that just aren’t allowable)?

You might be able to put a different subject in its place and you might have a different answer for each different subject, but the paradox that is Ted Nugent is still something that I have to ponder and, unfortunately, I’ll probably never come up with an acceptable answer…either to myself or to anyone else.

Why I Didn’t Watch President Obama’s Town Hall on Gun Control

Obama takes part in a live town hall on reducing gun violence on CNN in Virginia

Thursday night, I got my sick wife (who has been battling the King of all Colds for the past week) and our son cuddled up in bed together, watching cartoons, before they headed off to Slumberland. I headed back downstairs, looking to peruse the 200-plus channels that Time Warner Cable happens to throw at me at any given moment. It was at that time that I realized that there was something on that I should have been watching but I had utterly no interest in wasting two hours of my solo viewing time on.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama issued Executive Orders – actions that a sitting President can take, without the input of Congress, to clarify and/or adjust how his administration either adjudicates laws or applies them to the citizenry of the United States – to stiffen some of the background checks that are applied when people look to buy guns in this country. As a result of several mass shootings that have occurred across the nation and the continuing inaction by a Congress that, if a vote was to be held on legislation that all days should end in “y” couldn’t pass said legislation, Obama stepped up and announced reasonable changes that could be implemented without infringing on anyone’s right to own weapons. After making these announcements, you’d have thought Obama had pissed on the U. S. flag and run it through the colon of a water buffalo.

Conservatives immediately decried Obama’s actions as an “attack on the 2d Amendment,” “a very threat to freedom-loving Americans,” or “a way to take your guns away from you.” This paranoia was ratcheted up by virtually every conservative hack in print, televised and internet media. Even the Presidential campaigns got into the action, with Senator Ted Cruz literally running a campaign ad saying “Obama is coming for your guns,” with a picture of Obama with a military helmet on and the Cruz campaign asking for campaign contributions.

The problem with this is nowhere in Obama’s statements were any measures to take any weapons away from any owners. There weren’t any laws to prohibit any weapons from being owned, bought or sold. About the most aggressive and invasive action was a movement to increase the passing of information regarding mental health issues between departments to ensure that those with mental health problems wouldn’t be passing the increased background checks to be able to purchase weapons.

Executive Orders have been used by sitting Presidents of the United States since the inception of the United States of America. Believe it or not, even George Washington used Executive Orders to push across things that otherwise wouldn’t have made it past a reluctant Congress (because, logically, if Congress could pass laws for the President supporting his position, he wouldn’t have to resort to Executive Orders). Other things that were Executive Orders include the Emancipation Proclamation, the New Deal and the order to desegregate schools in the South and the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, there are some negatives that also fall under this umbrella, including the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the usage of force against Native Americans in taking their tribal lands from them.

Not surprisingly, the announcement by the Obama Administration of these new Executive Orders came a few days before the broadcast on CNN on Thursday night. CNN went to great lengths to say that they were the creators of the Town Hall, not President Obama, and also went to great lengths to state that representatives from the National Rifle Association (NRA) were invited (and declined) to participate in the program. The audience was made up of those whose lives had been impacted by gun violence and by those who believe in the sanctity of the 2d Amendment and the right to gun ownership.

So what did I do when I passed by this program on the tube last night? Continued on to watch a college basketball game between two teams I didn’t even give a shit about.

I kind of knew how the entire two-hour “discussion” would go just from watching the general shitstorm that had raged across social media when Obama initially made his announcement of his Executive Orders (by the way, you know how many Obama has used as he enters his final year? 226. Know how many his predecessor, George H. W. Bush, used? 291. How about Saint Reagan? 381. The first Bush was pretty good with only 166, but he only served four years). I didn’t really want to watch a replay of that same thing spread out over two hours on television. Still, I couldn’t help but occasionally, during timeouts in whatever game I was watching (think there was a Scottish soccer game on at some point), drop back over to CNN to see just what was going on.

Imagine if you will a room full of people who were simply there for the factor of hate-watching each other. An Arizona sheriff who is running to join the U. S. Congress (for some reason) challenged the President that his actions wouldn’t have changed anything that happened with recent mass shootings; President Obama responded by saying just because something happens doesn’t mean the response is to “do nothing.” Another woman, the widow of the late U. S. military sniper Chris Kyle, berated the President for “trying to take guns away from people” and giving “false hope.” Obama responded by speaking past her to the NRA and why they weren’t there to discuss the issue. All in all, it was a two-hour circle jerk that left no one satisfied, with both sides talking past each other instead of TO each other.

It was even worse following the discussion when the pundits became a part of the show. A former New York City cop who spoke out of both sides of his mouth joined some of the liberal CNN political commentators (Van Jones, Gloria Borger) and some conservative voices (Hugh Hewitt, S. E. Cupp) to basically yell over each other and Jake Tapper for an hour, reaching no new discussion points, basically reasserting that no one actually wants to discuss the issue but rivet their heels to the ground and not yield an inch one way or the other.

Therein lies one of the problems with the situation regarding guns in our society. There are those that take the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights – two of the greatest documents for governmental leadership in the history of mankind – as if they are God-given documents that can never be challenged nor changed. The Founding Fathers gave their descendants a way – yes, difficult, but for a reason…so that it wasn’t overused – to make changes when deemed necessary. They also encouraged their descendants to make those changes as time passed.

This is why a black person isn’t still considered 3/5ths a person anymore; this is why there is liquor to drink (after a previous effort to banish such activity) and that women can have the right to vote. This is why 18 year olds who can die on the battlefields of war have the ability to vote in this country. The 1st Amendment isn’t sacred – there are limitations on how far you can go with your speech and activities – and the 4th and 5th Amendment face constant modification. The 2d Amendment shouldn’t be considered sacred, either. It should have to adjust with the times and, yes, with the will of the people, who currently believe there should be more stringent control on guns (albeit not sure how to go about that) and, by a wide margin, more extensive background checks.

So what was the reaction of people following the show on CNN last night? After SportsCenter went off the air and “College Basketball Tonight” was coming on, I jumped on Facebook to check and see if there was a raging flame war between the pro- and anti-gun advocates. I nearly woke the crickets that were there regarding the subject.

With that said, this is a critical issue to try to gain a handle on (we are never going to eradicate it, we can simply only hope to lessen the impact of the next situation). Until all parties can come together and lay aside the radicalism of their political actions (NRA, are you listening?) or we can elect a Congress that isn’t beholden to one industry (not likely either), then discussions such as what CNN aired with President Obama last night will be a waste of time. When the next one comes on, you’ll probably find me watching the Swedish curling team…there’s some drama as to the outcome with that event, at least.

Another Day, Another Mass Shooting…Part One

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It’s beginning to become arduously mind numbing. A delightful office party on a sunny morning in San Bernardino, CA, celebrating the holiday season was suddenly wracked by automatic gunfire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Two people, a husband and a wife with the husband actually employed by the company throwing the party (and plenty of evidence continuing to come out about), came into the gathering with this weaponry, semi-automatic rifles, handguns and bombs, blazing a trail of brains, guts and sinew across the floor of what was once a happy celebration. When the scent of gunpowder was the only thing remaining, 14 people laid dead and 17 others suffered from injuries.

Of course, the usual procedural began before the bodies had even quit leaking blood. President Barack Obama, pulled out of an interview with CBS News as the bullets flew, made his usual commentary (accurate) that we are the only civilized country that has these issues, the same speech given five days earlier when a gunman shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. President Obama also called for politicians to put aside their differences and come to agreement on a plan of action to thwart future potential attacks. Pro-guns advocates threw up the “thoughts and prayers” bullshit (more on this in a minute) rather than take any logical approach to the issue. Meanwhile, those in the middle that might actually be affected by these insane actions feel another bit of our heart, our belief in the good of man, ripped away from us.

The “thoughts and prayers” platitude (just heard President Obama utter it too, not just Republicans) is about the most useless piece of wasted words that have ever been uttered. When people lie dead and injured from situations that are simply too outlandish to comprehend, “thoughts and prayers” aren’t going to do shit for them except to make your little heart feel good that you offered something up. In reality, you’ve offered nothing except empty words that have little actual thought or prayer behind it, a simplistic vagary that has become commonplace instead of actually taking legitimate action.

With that out of the way, how do we actually go about taking care of these issues? Both sides – and why there has to be sides on this issue is completely ludicrous (we enjoy seeing people ripped apart by gunfire, spreading their life essence on the ground?) – are going to have to give on the issue.

First, the rhetoric has to be squelched. As far back as President Ronald Reagan (if not further), the depiction of the President of the United States as a Hitler-esque figure has made the rounds. Back during Reagan’s heyday, however, those photos and comparisons were held in small groups that had a more difficult time in breeding their particular stew of radicalism because of the lack of connectivity.

Those same pictures of President Bill Clinton, President George Bush, President Obama or even Hillary Clinton today can race across the United States as quickly as a fiber optic line can carry them. Along with those photos comes the rhetoric – of the federal government as “jackbooted thugs” (a term used by Campaign for Liberty and I have the e-mails), that the “New World Order” is coming or that several tragic occurrences (including 9/11) were “false flag” operations (situations “staged” by the government to allow them to impede the freedom of the ‘American’ people) – and the ability to meet and exchange radical rhetoric much easier. This leads to radicalization, whether it is on an international level or a domestic one.

No leader of the United States has looked for the destruction of the country or its beliefs. Every leader since Reagan (at the minimum) has been accused and vilified for this, however, and the rhetoric has ratcheted up as people become immune to the last outrageous statement that was made (something we’re seeing in the 2016 Presidential races also). Instead of using incendiary words – yes, words can infuse a thought or action into someone’s mind that they might not have considered previously – try disagreeing on a different level, one where actual discourse about policy comes into play.

This also applies to other aspects of our lives. Tolerance of other religions (ALL religions), respect to a person’s particular thoughts and beliefs outside of a God-based nature, even someone’s opinions on politics or other seemingly insignificant issues can, in an unfettered discussion, devolve into a frenzy of rhetoric denouncing a person to their very essence, if not directly leading to questionable talk that wouldn’t be used if a person was standing directly in front of their opponent. The rhetoric, the speech…it has to be reined in.

Before it is accused, I am all for the “freedom of speech.” I am also all for speech that advances us as a country and as a species. Continually devolving ourselves to the lowest common denominator – or even lower – doesn’t seem to be working out too well.

The next step would be to put some regulation on the weaponization of the United States. In 1994, then-President Clinton passed, along with the U. S. Congress, a ban on assault weapons for a 10-year span. That law was allowed to expire in 2004 and, although there have been attempts to reinstate the law and make it permanent, the powerful gun lobby (re:  the National Rifle Association) has been able to squelch such efforts.

There is some evidence to state that semi-automatic weapons and their availability have little to no effect on the numbers of mass shootings. It is obvious, however, since the law expired in 2004 that there has been a rise in the usage of the weapons for that purpose. From 2004 to the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, 27 mass shootings (the definition of a mass shooting is a minimum of four people either killed or injured, including the shooter, through the usage of guns) occurred; this leaves out those that have drawn attention in 2015, including this most recent shooting, the Colorado attack or the college shooting in Oregon earlier this fall.

Semi-automatic rifles are used in the military to give troops the rapid fire that is necessary during warfare to defend themselves and fight battles. The weapon is NOT meant for use by civilians; there is no practical purpose – hunting, target shooting, etc. – that these style of weapons would be necessary to find in the hands of the Average Joe. If you’re argument is that “you’re defending the country against the fascism of our government” then you need to go back and read the first part and reexamine your mindset.

Next, there needs to be some changes to other areas of our “gun culture.” People are supposed to have insurance on their vehicles that, in the event of an accident, can help to provide compensation for any victims. The ownership of weaponry needs the same treatment as this is part of responsible ownership. It would also provide for someone to report when their weapons are stolen or sold to another party because that would alleviate any responsibility for the weapon.

Finally, the left has to get used to the factor that this is a country that was built on the ownership of guns and that, treated responsibly, this isn’t a problem. In recent mass shootings three-quarters of the weapons used were legally purchased, hence back to the tightening of what weapons are available and the need to put controls in that area. But the complete eradication of guns from the U. S. society isn’t going to happen.

Through an amalgamation of some of these previous thoughts – our country’s overall rhetoric, control on some weapons, penalties for usage of weapons in serious crimes and the understanding that every situation doesn’t call for the banishment of something you disagree with – we might start to clamp down on the overall malignancy that is festering in our soul. The inability to implement some if not all of these suggestions will just continue to lead us down a road until drastic actions take place that no one will be pleased with.

Will it happen? If you see this same article again, with a different “Part” number and a different lead paragraph, then obviously it hasn’t…

“Routine” Tragedies Will Continue Until the Chain is Broken

We didn’t even wait until later into October to get our “mass shooting of the month” out of the way for the next 30 days or so. In Oregon this afternoon, a man walked onto the grounds of Umpqua Community College, entered the classrooms and, reportedly after querying his potential victims on their religious backgrounds, appears to have executed 10 people. The shooter would injure another seven people before police arrived on the scene and gunned him down.

We’ve become numb to it in the United States, these mass shootings where someone – whether for religious or racial reasons, whether they are mentally ill or completely sane – snuffs out the existences of those who are either at the beginning of what should be great lives (the Sandy Hook shootings), defending our nation (Chattanooga), joyously praising their God in a house of worship (Charleston), meeting with their Congressional district’s residents (Tucson) or just simply going to school, trying to learn something to advance themselves (Columbine).

First off, let’s define a “mass shooting.” The definition has come to be determined that which A) four or more people are victims, and B) don’t include gang killings or the death of multiple members of the same family. This criteria makes sense in that emotion (such as a familial situation) or an involuntary occurrence (killing two people at the same time by accident) wouldn’t fall into the equation. Using the criteria, this would include every one of the situations noted a couple of paragraphs previous and would also include the Aurora, CO, theater massacre, among several others. What wouldn’t make the “grade”? The recent point-blank execution of the journalists in Virginia, unless you want to count the shooter as Victim #4.

As to be expected, the respective representatives came out on both sides and began to toss their rhetoric. President Barack Obama summed up one end perhaps most concisely in saying, “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this. Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel, and it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple months from now.” Of course, after Obama made this statement, gun advocates screamed that he was “politicizing” the situation when it “wasn’t appropriate.”

The National Rifle Association, which is about as oriented to the safe usage of weapons as Volkswagen was in creating environmentally safe vehicles, will continue to wail about how it isn’t about the guns. “It’s about the people,” they’ll sniffle as they hug their little weapon close to their chest, petting it gently. “If they weren’t bad people/high on drugs/mentally ill (choose your excuse du jour), then they wouldn’t have done something like this…It wasn’t the gun’s fault, though (Pat…Pat).” And when their paid henchmen in Congress get up and repeat this line of bullshit, they should be forced to go look at the bodies of the dead as they lie on the grounds of a college or a school playground and then try to repeat their idiocy.

Strangely enough, the rest of the world doesn’t have this problem. Using the criteria set above regarding what constitutes a mass shooting, between 1966 and 2012 (this isn’t even counting the last couple of years of this fucked-up situation) there were 292 such incidences around the world. While they weren’t all in the United States, a sizeable chunk of them were. There were 90 such mass shootings in the U. S., meaning that although the U. S. makes up 5% of the world, we have 31% of the mass shootings. Finally, in the U. S. shootings, more than half of the cases involved a shooter with more than one gun; in the foreign cases, the gunman usually had one weapon. For the gun nuts in the crowd, here’s something to hang your hat on:  the average number of victims in U. S. shootings is 6.87 per incident; internationally, it is 8.8 victims.

In another study from the Harvard School of Public Health looking at mass shooting incidences between 2011 and 2014, mental illness is examined as the cause for the attacks. While the rates of mental illness remain level for the time period, the research shows that mass shootings tripled in frequency. The study also showed that, in the previous 30 years, mass shootings occurred about every 200 days; in the three years examined closely, that rate had dropped to 64 days.

So what can we learn from this data? The problem with mass shootings isn’t about who is committing the atrocities, it IS in the choice of what they are using to complete their twisted fantasies. Weapons – handguns, rifles, shotguns, etc. – are the reason that so many people are being killed when someone decides to commit these acts. We often hear from the gun lobby, “Well, if he had a knife and did the same thing, would you ban the knife?” The answer is probably not because, with only one knife, there’s the chance that the situation could be averted and/or not as extreme in its deaths. When someone has a rack of weapons and enough ammunition to fight their way out of a Syrian village, many people are going to die or be permanently scarred from the wounds they receive.

It’s time we actually did something about this situation. The fuckheads on the opposite side of the aisle – those that suck at the teat of the National Rifle Association and spout off about how their “Second Amendment rights” are under siege when there hasn’t been a federal gun law enacted in the United States since the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban that expired under President George Bush (Bush II, as I like to say) – will spout off about how “this isn’t the time” to talk about the plague of mass shootings in the United States. If this isn’t the time – and if it wasn’t appropriate the first 100 times this occurred in this country – then what the fuck time is a good one?

The NRA needs to get the hell out of the discussion or quit being obstructionist and admit that it is time that there are strong regulations put in place on all weapons in the United States. I consistently hear that the NRA grassroots isn’t represented by the hateful, rhetoric spewing Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the organization, and that those “sensible gun owners” actually wouldn’t mind having some regulatory laws regarding guns on the books. It is time that this segment of the NRA shows up and forces their elected leadership to listen to them instead of allowing for a radical minority (if it is so) of the NRA to dictate the course of action.

They should acquiesce to federal licensing of weapons to individuals (we have stronger licensing principals in place for driving a fucking car, mind you, than owning a piece of military hardware created to end lives) and for all gun owners to have liability insurance on their weapon if it is used in a criminal act (that way there is some compensation outlet for the victims, at the minimum). Finally, gun show sales should be halted and a 10-day “waiting period” should be instituted for ANY gun purchase, be it a semi-automatic pistol, a pump shotgun or a pellet gun.

It’s tough to give any anger to those who are the victims of such acts, but there are some things that can be done. First off, sometimes things will happen in the course of life (easy for me to wax philosophically over) that we cannot prevent. We can never understand why certain things, especially some of the vilest crimes committed by mankind, happen in our existence. All that can be done in some cases is investigate it thoroughly and use the information to try to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Furthermore, even if the above laws were ALL put into place, there would still be mass shootings – they probably just wouldn’t be as prevalent as they are today. Normally sane people would still be able to stockpile weapons, even those that have no application in hunting and are created especially for the act of warfare and killing other humans, and ammunition will still be plentiful. As such, someone might be able to talk a buddy into giving, selling and/or stealing from enough guns to inflict such pain.

Finally, mental illness is a viable reason for mass shootings so, when it comes to those challenges, the U. S. should revamp the system and adequately fund and support the system. As it is now, the U. S. as a whole does NOT put enough money into education on the subject, treatment of those afflicted with the differing mental illnesses nor provide enough to adequately assist these people upon their return to public life. Without attention being paid to this area, then all the laws instituted won’t have any effect.

If six-year old children, pregnant women, members of the Armed Forces, churchgoing people, high school and college students and, yes, even the everyday Average Joe being executed by the business end of a firearm through no fault of their own doesn’t spur you to action, then you cannot be a member of the human race. It is time we end this scourge of mass shootings in the United States or, at the minimum, rein them in tremendously and reduce the number of times that the nation sheds tears for those murdered viciously.

Let’s just hope that we’re not talking about this again in a couple of weeks…

Why Do We Keep Repeating Ourselves When It Comes To Gun Violence?

It’s been a couple of days since the tragic shooting of WDBJ-TV Roanoke, VA, reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward (and the life-threatening injury to Vicki Gardner, a member of the Chamber of Commerce that they were interviewing), live during the broadcast of the station’s morning show by a deranged former co-worker of the duo. Over the past couple of days, there has once again been the hand-wringing that comes about following one of these inexplicable shootings that seem to happen like clockwork in the United States. When these periods of mourning occur, there is also a renewed “effort” (if you want to call it that) to enact sensible gun regulation; in the Roanoke case, it is Parker’s father that has led the call this time. There’s also that dreadful feeling that, like many other times before and for much worse cases, nothing at all will be done about the situation.

The problem is, in the past couple of instances, the current laws and any tougher restrictions may not have done any good.

In the Roanoke case the shooter, former reporter Vester Flanagan (we will not respect him by using his on-air name) legally purchased not just one but two Glock semi-automatic pistols, one that he would eventually use in the shooting of Parker, Ward and Gardner. Flanagan passed through the background check, no bells went off and he walked out (there is no waiting period for gun purchases in Virginia) of a licensed gun dealer’s shop in Virginia with his weapons after paying for them.

This situation also applies to the horrific tragedy that is the Charleston, SC church shooting. The person responsible for that, 21-year old Dylan Roof, also was able to pass a background check (later found to be faulty) to be able to obtain the weaponry that he used to gun down the nine churchgoers in cold blood. Even the Sandy Hook tragedy was done by a shooter, Adam Lanza, whose mother legally bought him the weapons he had (and would use on her and 26 others) in 2012.

Add in Virginia Tech, Aurora, Chattanooga and many other cases and you see that the United States has way too many instances of mass shootings on its soil (this is just in the past decade and not even a comprehensive list). To be able to correct this problem, there are several issues that have to be considered here and implementation of all are necessary if we are to get the usage of guns in horrendous crimes under control.

A 2013 Pew Research Center survey states that slightly more than one-third of U. S. citizens own or live with someone who owns a weapon. With the population of the U. S. around 320 million, that means there are over 100 million people who own at least one weapon. For arguments sake, let’s cut that number to around 50 million gun owners, counting for duplication in a husband and wife household at the minimum. That’s a scary number to see, especially when you consider “at least one” in the ownership realm.

The reason I say “at least one” is that it is also estimated that there are anywhere from 270 to 310 million weapons in the United States, nearly enough to outfit each man, woman and child in the U. S. with a weapon whether they like it or not. That number of guns available in itself is far too many and needs to be examined in its own right. But through implementation of some common sense ideas, many of the problematic issues regarding weapons can be corrected; it’s going to take some time, however, perhaps decades.

First off is a suitable waiting period before someone can obtain any type of firearm:  rifle, pistol, shotgun or a variety of other weaponry. In some cases, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) performs the background checks on potential gun owners, in others it is the individual State Bureaus of Investigation; both should be utilized, the state’s investigation first and the FBI as a double-check. There should be a 10-day waiting period in which to give the proper authorities ample time to review a person’s background and, if there is no result from the responsible investigative bureau, then the sale is rejected. To implement this change, however, you can’t continually cut funding from the proper authorities to do their jobs properly.

Second is better recording and sharing of mental health records. There should be a national registry for those suffering from mental health issues that flag them, in particular for law enforcement groups when they are looking over pretty much anything they do. Wouldn’t a police officer like to know that the person sitting in the vehicle ahead of them might have a history of mental health issues and therefore might handle a situation differently? The same holds true when they are reviewing someone’s application for a weapon, especially if the applicant’s mental health issues are only recorded in another state.

Now I am sure that someone is going to say that this is an “invasion of privacy” or a violation of doctor/patient privilege. Unfortunately, when you’ve reached the point that your particular affliction is causing issues with law enforcement, you do lose some privacy considerations. Don’t take it too far, however; someone has to have demonstrated previously an incident, either on the job or with law enforcement, to show just cause for being placed on such a registry, not someone who has been simply treated for issues that affect their abilities to function in normal life. Even with this caveat thrown into the mix, the Roanoke situation may still have happened, however.

Finally, there has to be some recognition from the political sphere that this is a significant problem in the United States and pay it real attention rather than hiding behind the skirts of several usual suspects.

For the Democrats, we already have enough gun restrictions on the books. There are going to be shootings on a RARE occasion, even with all the gun laws in the U. S. implemented to the fullest. Banning high capacity magazines and automatic weapons isn’t the answer, a better one would be to regulate their usage and allow for their ownership by the populace. Continuing to push for deeper and deeper restrictions or bans beyond what already exist only infringe on a lawful individual’s rights, not the criminal who actually committed the crime.

For the Republicans, it is time to take the pacifier that the National Rifle Association sticks in your mouth after each mass shooting out, get out from behind the U. S. Constitution and allow for some more regulation on guns. The NRA leadership (rumor has it the base membership of the organization doesn’t have a problem with some additional regulation, especially in banning sales at gun shows and more extensive background checks) has shown repeatedly that it isn’t about defending the right of U. S. citizens to own weapons. With that leadership in particular (and the same can be said for plenty of other groups), it is more of a political stance to get the proper person into a seat in Congress or state legislatures across the country to be able to manipulate them at will.

The Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights to the U. S. Constitution does provide for the right of the citizenry to own weapons and it is an important amendment to defend. However, it doesn’t provide for someone to own an arsenal that sometimes outpaces even law enforcement (no matter how good you are, you can only shoot two weapons at a time). Add in to that equation the issue of when the Second Amendment was written. At that time, it took even the best musket shooter anywhere from two to three minutes to reload their weapon and said weapon was only accurate to about 100 yards for the best marksman. Today, when you can spray 600 rounds per minute – with accuracy from 300 to 500 yards – from an Uzi by an untrained person, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the Second Amendment’s intent.

Additional regulation doesn’t have to be draconian, it can be as simple as banning gun show sales (hey, if you really want that weapon, go to the store and go through the process) or waiting a few extra days to get a particular weapon in your hand. What about liability insurance on gun owners to hold them personally responsible for the ownership and usage of their weapons? We do more for cars and their ownership than what we do when it comes to weapons.

It is particularly shocking when those whose livelihood once were dependent on the world of weapons are actually asking for more regulations on weapons.

One year ago in Nevada, gun range instructor Charles Vacca was the unfortunate victim of a gun range incident that resulted in his death. The perpetrator? A nine year old girl who legally could fire the weapon, an Uzi submachine gun, but logically shouldn’t have been allowed to even put it in her hand. The six children of Vacca are now advocates for new guns laws that would prohibit people under the age of 16 from shooting certain semiautomatic weapons like those as powerful as the Uzi, an instance of gun control that make completely logical sense.

The real issue that needs to be addressed, however, is the mentality of the citizens of the United States. It would take several generations to change the mindset of how guns are used in the U. S., to get it beyond its “Wild West” romantic nostalgia or its inner city “equalizer” role. We as a people need to start looking at guns as something that, like many things in life, in the wrong hands can be fatal and how can we attempt to make it a bit safer (let’s be honest, there is no such thing as “perfectly safe”). The rest of the civilized world seems to have learned that using guns as a method of solving conflict isn’t the way to go, why can’t U. S. citizens?

Implementing the measures above – and all of them need to be done, not a piecemeal approach that minces around the subject – would be an outstanding start. After that work is done, we can then sit back and review to see if there is anything else that needs to be done.