Tag Archives: NRA

“Stephen Paddock is neither the moral nor cultural aberration defenders of the Second Amendment assert. In fact, the country’s history is littered with countless thousands of Stephen Paddock’s”…

We have met the enemy and he is us

It is not America’s gun laws that are the issue when it comes to the mass shootings which occur with banal regularity in the land of the free, it is the gun culture that underpins those laws – a culture symptomatic of the moral sickness the country is suffering from, and for which in 2017 there appears no sign of a cure.

In the wake of the latest mass shooting to erupt in the US, this one at an open-air music festival in Las Vegas – during which 59 people were killed and hundreds more wounded by lone gunman Stephen Paddock, spraying automatic gunfire into the crowd from the window of a room overlooking the event at the Mandalay Bay Hotel – the same debate over America’s notorious gun laws has ensued, involving the usual parade of fulminating defenders of the country’s ‘sacred’ Second Amendment of the US Constitution, enshrining the right of citizens to bear arms.

Said supporters of this provision within the country’s constitution, adopted and ratified in 1791 at a time when automatic and semi-automatic weapons were still centuries away from being invented, have in time honoured fashion been extending themselves in arguing that freedom in America means the freedom to be able to walk into a gun store on any given day and procure enough firepower to wipe out a herd of elephants.

But as mentioned, the question is not over the rights or wrongs of the Second Amendment; the question is the culture of violence married to the near total lack of social cohesion that pervades in a country suffocating under the weight of its own nauseating hypocrisy. This culture and this lack of social cohesion are the underlying causes of the mass shootings and massacres that are so ubiquitous in America that they have become part of the cultural fabric, just like the Superbowl and Kim Kardashian’s tits.

The sentiments of right wing TV host Bill O’Reilly, who described this latest atrocity as the “price of freedom,” while clearly outlandish and utterly contemptible to anyone who’s managed to retain a semblance of sanity, are nonetheless evidence of the mass psychosis that passes for normality in large swathes of America.

In penetrating the foundational myths by which the US sustains itself – rugged individualism, self reliance, the apotheosis of private property and personal wealth, seasoned with Old Testament virtues of work, self discipline, and the exaltation of ‘righteous’ violence – we come face to face with an ugly and suppurating reality in the form of the widespread atomisation of society, white supremacy, along with a pervasive yet irrational fear of central government, fuelled by conspiracy theory. Add to this lethal cocktail the grotesque sense of exceptionalism which informs the country’s political culture, an entertainment industry and celebrity culture that distorts the true measure of human worth and meaning with its worship of obscene wealth and fame, and you are talking a society coming apart at the seams.

Is it any wonder that mental illness is so ubiquitous in a society in which rapacious competitiveness and a religious attachment to acquisition has reduced the lived experience of the majority of its citizens to one of unremitting pressure not only to succeed but for far too many just to survive? On the other side of this dismal equation sits a healthcare system which attests to the core inhumanity that no amount of boasts of America’s innate goodness and promise could possibly elide, providing the ingredients that go into producing mass killers such as Stephen Paddock.

The gun culture in America is also central to law enforcement. The inordinate number of people killed by cops across the country on a regular basis is less to do with trigger-happy police officers in fear of their lives committing catastrophic and fatal errors, and more to do with an ethos of vigilantism born of the dehumanization of the poor and/or of minorities, who make up the vast majority of victims of cop violence across the country. Indeed, in this respect, things have got to the point where within US law enforcement it seems that executing young black males, regardless of whether they happened to be armed or unarmed, has become more acceptable than ‘protecting and serving’.

Analyzing this perverse exaltation of violence in America, author and journalist Chris Hedges writes, “Vigilantes and lone avengers are the popular heroes in American culture. They are celebrated on television and in Hollywood movies. Audiences, especially as they feel economic and political power slipping from their hands, yearn for the violent authority embodied in rogue cops in films such as Dirty Harry or in unrepentant killers such as Bradley Cooper in American Sniper.”

America’s exaltation of violence is likewise reflected in a muscular and aggressive foreign policy that has been responsible for the deaths of more people around the world since the end of the Second World War. Thus, when black civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King, himself assassinated by a crazed lone gunman, described the US government as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” he never spoke a truer word. They are words attested to by the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, the destruction of North Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and not forgetting the countless proxy wars it has funded in Central and South America, the Middle East.

So, yes, we are dealing with a culture in which the capacity for unleashing lethal violence on a mass scale is lauded in movies and on television, in which the veneration of tough cops and the glorification of the military are consonant with the dehumanization of the poor and minorities, and in which the Second Amendment is treated as if the very suggestion it should be reformed is considered sacrilege.

It is why in 2017 the biggest threat to the average American citizen is not North Korea, Russia, or Iran – is not even terrorism – but instead is the organization which exists to protect the right to bear arms, an organization whose money and political influence has succeeded in blocking even the most incremental change to the nation’s gun laws.

That organization is the National Rifle Association, more commonly referred to as the NRA. It is an organization which in a very real sense is dripping in the blood of the 59 victims of this latest mass shooting in Las Vegas, along with that of the countless tens of thousands of victims of gun violence all across America.

Stephen Paddock is neither the moral nor cultural aberration defenders of the Second Amendment assert. In fact, the country’s history is littered with countless thousands of Stephen Paddock’s, unleashing wanton slaughter against native Americans, blacks, and the poor, evidence that the true history of America is a history of psychopathic violence buttressed by the salve of a bible in whose name the crimes that have and continue to be committed are legion.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

“We value guns, flags and fake acts of patriotism over people, pain”

Sandy Hook mom speaks on the latest mass shooting

After the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas, which has already claimed the lives of 50 people and injured more than 400 more, Nelba Márquez-Greene, mother of Ana Márquez-Greene, a 6-year-old girl who was gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012, is sounding off on Twitter in a series of remarkable and heartbreaking comments that puts the blame for yet another mass shooting directly on the shoulders of Congress.

She also wants to know why we don’t confront the true reality that the majority of mass shootings are committed by angry, white men.

Marquez-Greene noted roughly 91 people per day from from guns in the United States and we do nothing.

Can you imagine if ISIS were killing 91 people per day? Ebola? It would be a national emergency and we would commit every single resource we had to stopping the tragedy. Instead, we have a Republican Congress that not only rolled back an Obama administration law making it more difficult for mentally ill people to get guns, they are (or were) going to vote this week to make it easier to purchase gun silencers! You can purchase a gun silencer in the United States by completely a background check and Republicans want to get rid of the background check requirement. How is that helping people in this country?

In a series of 22 tweets, Nelba Márquez-Greene tells it like it is—Congress needs to stop ignoring the grieving mothers and families from every single zip code in this country. They should’ve taken action to protect the life and liberty of all citizens long before now. How many mass shootings will it take?

“The left-wing views of the alleged shooter might be surprising to some, but they shouldn’t be. The gun industry and the NRA market guns with promises that owning guns will make the customer feel manly and powerful, and that fantasy has a power that can transcend political boundaries”…

VIA

Wednesday’s terrifying assault on a group of Republican congressmen at baseball practice demonstrated that no one is protected from the violence that plagues a country where gun industry profits and culture-war politics have turned guns into fetish objects and have made reasonable gun safety policies nearly impossible to enact. No one is spared, not even those who have done so much to make it easy for any madman with a vendetta to get the weaponry he needs to rain the sort of havoc that was visited on a bucolic park in Alexandria, Virginia, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Early reports indicate that the suspect, who was apparently shot and killed by police, was a 66-year-old Illinois man named James T. Hodgkinson. His social media presence was almost wholly devoted to loathing Donald Trump and exalting Sen. Bernie Sanders, and reports have suggested he worked as a volunteer for Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

The left-wing views of the alleged shooter might be surprising to some, but they shouldn’t be. The gun industry and the NRA market guns with promises that owning guns will make the customer feel manly and powerful, and that fantasy has a power that can transcend political boundaries. And no one knows better than gun industry leaders how feelings of political frustration caused by seeing your preferred candidates lose elections can be channeled into a pitch to buy more guns.

Exactly a year ago today, in response to the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead, I wrote a piece for Salon that touched on how the gun industry uses political grievances as a hook to convince people to buy more guns. Back then, of course, we had a Democratic president in office. During Barack Obama’s administration, the gun industry was able to move huge numbers of weapons off the shelf by convincing paranoid, resentful white conservatives that the black president was coming to take their guns away.

This is not conjecture. Last year, Smith & Wesson released a report celebrating the effect that having a Democrat in the White House — which provokes feelings of resentment and frustration in conservative voters — had on their gun sales. This is a slide from the company’s own report.

The election of President Trump empowered conservative Americans. That, too, has had an impact on gun sales, dubbed by CNN Money the “Trump slump.” With Trump in office sticking it to the liberals, the main gun customer base, angry reactionaries, has been less inclined to dump thousands of dollars of overcompensation money on deadly hardware.

Gun marketing, particularly through the NRA, is targeted largely at conservatives. That said, the emotional buttons being pushed — that wish to feel powerful, the desire to prove one’s masculinity, the appeal of violence as a political shortcut — cannot be contained by something as pedestrian as political partisanship. Through years of marketing and cultural messaging, guns have been crafted into something totemic, even primal, in their appeal, and that appeal extends to all manner of people who yearn for some kind of cleansing violence to solve their problems.

Around the time of Trump’s inauguration, a debate rose up in leftist circles about the value of political violence, particularly after an anonymous person punched white supremacist Richard Spencer in the face on camera on Inauguration Day. While I strongly relate to the desire to lash out at people who would dismantle our democracy in the name of white nationalism, I’ve been persuaded by friends and allies, especially journalist Dave Neiwert of the Southern Poverty Law Center, that political violence is always a bad idea. Not only is it wrong but it tends to backfire, creating the pretext for the violent suppression of liberal or leftist ideas.

Already there are right-wing street gangs forming, eagerly looking for an excuse to lash out against anyone they perceive as of the left. Already there’s been a shooting of a left-leaning protester, who by all accounts was trying to restore peace, by right-wingers who seemed to be out for blood. Already two men have been killed, and a third badly injured by an unhinged reactionary and white supremacist who claims he was acting in self-defense, because the men tried to interfere with his verbal assault on two women of color. There is every reason to believe that the baying alt-right wolves cannot wait to use this shooting as an excuse to escalate their own efforts at using violence to quell liberal dissent.

As for the Republicans, sadly, there is no reason to believe they will react to this dreadful crime by rethinking their resistance to saner gun control laws that could go a long way towards minimizing the amount of damage that people disposed to violence can do. Despite watching their own friends and colleagues running away from a hail of gunfire, Republican politicians and pundits are sticking with the thoughts-and-prayers narrative, and not even discussing taking steps to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

The socialist writer Upton Sinclair had a saying he liked to trot out at public events: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

That’s why we cannot expect Republican politicians to learn from this event that it’s a bad idea to make it so easy for random individuals to take life at will on a massive scale. It’s not just the money from the gun lobby that blinds them, although that certainly doesn’t help matters. It’s that the cultural anxieties that both fuel gun mania and are fueled by it work to their benefit.

The NRA’s stories about how scary black and brown men are about to bust down your door and kill your family are good for selling guns, but they were the also same narratives that helped propel Trump to the White House. If anything, the fact that a Bernie Sanders supporter apparently went nuts with a gun will increase the paranoia on the right, which in turn will only lead to greater attachment to guns.

Fears of emasculation, racist anxieties about crime, power fantasies about silencing dissent through threats of violence, and a widespread loathing for liberals and their insistence on rational evidence: Those things sell guns. They also get votes out for Republicans. The party cannot give up one without the other. And so we cannot expect that this spate of gun violence, as close to home as this dreadful incident comes for Republican elected lawmakers, will do anything to change their minds.