As Obama pointed out on Friday, the news briefings on mass shooting are all too common, to the point of routine. The Oregon shooting seems to have had a religious connection in the shooter asking students to identify themselves as Christians—if they admitted this, he shot them in the head, if not, in the legs. Early reports indicate he had a thing against organized, institutionalized religion, a common feeling, but one usually acted on by just staying away from churches.
Obama indicated frustration, a sentiment that he has displayed many times on this issue. He knows he’s largely failed in making any progress on gun control, and with only a year to go, he will leave with little accomplished.
He asked reporters there to do homework on it: compile stats on Americans killed by terrorists, and compare that to ones killed by fellow Americans in mass shootings. A few news agencies have done that, and any form of graph shows the results are obvious. The main deaths from a terrorist activity occurred on 9-11, almost three thousand killed in the Twin Towers attack. There have been a few since that, such as at the Boston Marathon, but compared to home-grown gun deaths, any terrorist plotting stutters along the bottom line, while domestic gun violence soars at stratospheric levels above.
Few changes have been made in American gun laws over the past decades. The reasons for that can be simplified: the powerful gun lobby in the US, led by the National Rifle Association, leans on Republican members of Congress until they consistently vote against any restrictions, and further dismantle any weapon related laws that manage to get through. The shooter in the Charleston killing of nine at a church, Dylann Roof, purchased his gun legally (as most of the shooters have). One of the contributing factors was that Republicans managed to get a law requiring five days for a background check reduced to three days—very limited time to get the research and paperwork done for any difficult cases (their obvious intent). Since Roof’s was not completed in the three days, the gun seller had the option of handing it to him, which he did. He would not have qualified to buy one had a thorough check been done (though he could probably have gotten one anyway in a nation where there are as many guns as people).
Gun ownership is a part of American culture. It’s enshrined in their constitutional amendments, as the Second Amendment…the “Right to Bear Arms”. Their Supreme Court recently upheld the literal understanding of that—the right to own your own weapons. Short of a constitutional change, they cannot completely remove weapons from American citizens. Did this come from the heritage of rebellion against British control? From their strong desire for independence and freedom? From their history we see as the “old west”? I don’t know. I know only that their gun culture is unlikely to disappear in our lifetimes.
Research and estimates tell us that there are approximately 114 million handguns in the US (plus rifles and shotguns—we hope most have some legitimate use by hunters), and probably over one and a half million “assault rifles”, weapons mainly seen in military situations.
Legitimate hunters carry long guns, lost in the debate on gun ownership, but with handguns the situation is different: little old ladies have them in the bedside tables, lawyers have them in their briefcases, taxi drivers have them under the seat, young ladies carry them in their purses. Used car lots include them as a car sale bonus, service clubs offer them as prizes—it’s pervasive. Some states mandate that you have to carry them in public view, others that they have to be carried concealed. In some western states, walking with one holstered on your belt like Wyatt Earp would raise few eyebrows. A YouTube video shows a father frolicking in a pubic park with children, a holstered pistol on his hip. In every crowd that gathers at a public event, there is a good chance that guns are tucked away somewhere.
The fact that guns are plentiful is a contributing factor in accidental deaths and injuries from guns, but the dark side to American gun access exists in the nut cases that we seldom see. There are thousands of Americans so filled with paranoia about their country being under threat, if not from forces outside, at least from their government itself, that they believe they should be armed to the teeth for their own protection. They have an obsession with this, and an obsession with the guns themselves. These people make up a lot of the purchasers of assault rifles (for mowing down deer?), extended capacity magazines (in case a burglar needs to be shot thirty times), and other questionable items (questionable as to why someone would need such things, short of twenty people with weapons attacking your home).
But in their minds, these people do need this kind of weaponry. And, far more serious weaponry, the likes of which would shock people crawling under the canvas at a meeting of a secret militia. Because they can’t trust the government—now headed by an Islamic terrorist as it is—a government ultimately bent on ripping their constitutionally granted weapons from their dead hands when finally the balloon goes up, a time when naïve people realize that the guys meeting in the old lodge on Tuesday nights were right all along.
In every situation where there has been a mass killing, the NRA has offered a simple reason why lives were lost: the people assaulted failed to arm themselves. When twenty-six little children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary were slaughtered, the error was simple: there should have been a gun cabinet in the school office, and staff should have been armed. At the church in Charleston, the minister should have allowed those gathered in prayer to be carrying weapons. The failure at the Oregon community college will be similarly explained: more security guards were needed, with more weapons; staff should have been carrying weapons as they taught courses like Family Relations and Business Ethics. Obvious, isn’t it?
If you think that is not crazy enough, do some Internet searching (hopefully CSIS is not yet tracking me) and you will find many sites claiming that most of the mass shootings, such as at the Sandy Hook Elementary School are just hoaxes and fakes—dramas staged in some bizarre scheme by “them” (perhaps the secret terrorist who never-was-born-in-the-USA president) to fool us all and divert attention from the REAL threats waiting to explode (they likely also subscribe to the Bush Bombed the Twin Towers and the Landing on the Moon TV Studio explanations as well. Did I mention JFK?).
America has a huge problem. People keeping track tell us that the shooting on Thursday was number 294 in “mass shootings” (over four people killed) in the US this calendar year. Only a portion of them ever make the news. Bar graphs of gun killings per capita in the US compared to other nations are so obvious in their deviation from norm that one would have to be an idiot to argue that the American approach to gun ownership and licensing is not seriously out of whack. Law enforcement officials quake in their boots at any notion of taking weapons back by force.
Expect the expected. It will not change.