How Sex, Politics, Money and Religion are Killing Planet Earth

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gun Violence in America – Victims, Victims Everywhere

This past week news headlines flashed with an unfortunately all too familiar tragedy. A lone, heavily armed young man entered a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado and open-fired on the crowded theatre, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more. Americans justifiably stand shocked with disbelief at the horrific scenes that splash across television screen, and the media portrays the event as a rare twist of fate, an anomaly in American culture, an unforeseeable catastrophe.   

If only this were the case. Last year, a similar scene unfolded at a political rally in Tucson, Arizona. A couple of years before that, the scene was recreated at Fort Hood. Prior to that was Virginia Tech. 13 years ago, a mere 15 miles away from the scene in Aurora, a total of 15 were sacrificed at Columbine High School. Mass shootings are not an anomaly in American culture; they are a symptom of it.

In fact, mass shootings in America account for an average of 20 deaths per year in the United States. When one adds the victims of mere gun violence, the number explodes to around 30,000 per year. The number of gun-related deaths in the United States is a shocking 20 times higher than any other developed nation on earth. As such, gun violence may be the single most preventable form of death in this country. The number of victims caused by 9/11 pales by comparison. As we hunt down “terrorists” in the Middle East at a cost of trillions of dollars, perhaps we should ask ourselves if the greatest threat to the safety of Americans is American policy, rather than scary brown people with a different way of worshipping Yahweh.

Given the deplorable instance of gun violence in the United States, one would think that this issue would be paramount in political discourse, particularly during an election year.  James Eagan Homes, an obviously disturbed Graduate student of Neuroscience, obtained his weapons, including an assault rifle capable of delivering 50 rounds per minute, legally.

Holmes purchased much of his equipment online from a company When interviewed, the CEO of the company reported that while there was nothing unusual about Holmes’s purchase, the CEO was “appalled” that equipment purchased at his company was used in the shooting. One wonders why a CEO of such a company would be appalled or surprised that equipment he supplied was used for its intended purpose. Such is the irony of the American gun culture. Commercial goods (guns and ammo), that have the singular purpose to maim and kill, are sold in many states more easily than tobacco or alcohol. Conservative, gun-toting patriots object vociferously to what they perceive as moral deficiencies, such as gay marriage, women’s reproductive rights or the teaching of scientific facts in schools, and yet have no qualms whatsoever about freely distributing deadly weapons to anybody who wants them.

The gun lobby spends obscene millions of dollars to maintain this status quo, and Congress impotently turns a blind eye to the obvious. Guns are killing tools. Rather than being readily available, they should be strictly controlled. The United States has a gun violence rap sheet that resembles statistics from war-torn Sub-Saharan Africa.  No other developed country has this problem. They also don’t guarantee their citizens a “right” to bear arms. Gun enthusiasts see gun control as an infringement on their personal freedom. I would gladly trade James Holmes’s right to bear arms for the lives of 12 people in Aurora, Colorado, who have now been unjustly deprived of the simple right to exist. The Supreme Court and Congress waste precious time and resources arguing whether universal healthcare that saves lives is Constitutional, while almost 100 people are dying every day from a gunshot. Insanity.

Sadly Holmes, like his predecessors Jarred Loughner, Seung-Hui Cho, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and Nidal Hassan (to name but a few), is a deeply disturbed, mentally ill young man.  Another culture or country that offers universal healthcare, including mental health care, to all residents probably would have treated him long before tragedy struck. Otherwise brilliant young men could have been productive members of society, had society not ignored their needs. While our culture tells us to hate them for their crimes, we should also remember that they too are victims of a culture that values the right to bear arms more than it values the welfare of its people.


  1. "Mass shootings are not an anomaly in American culture; they are a symptom of it."

    Best succinct summation I've seen written so far. Most is just so much blather.

    Of course, it has happened elsewhere (Norway?) and in a wider sense, is part of a much more widespread pathology. A sociopathic society.

    And then too, I wonder how much of it has to do with brain damage from exposure to heavy metals. How would we ever know?

    1. You are correct Gail. Of course, there was that awful scene in Norway by a right-wing fundamentalist crackpot. There was also one incident in the UK. The point is these incidents truly are anomalies and one-time tragedies, unlike the United States where they happen with an unfortunate annual regularity.

      We are definitely a sociopathic society as you note. My theory is one of unnatural selection. All of the normal people have been wiped out by the destructive, dominating sociopaths over the past several thousand years, leaving us with a most unfortunate gene pool...

    2. KM,
      As regards your theory of 'unnatural selection', I highly recommend the book, "The Iceman Inheritance: Prehistoric Sources of Western Man's Racism, Sexism and aggression" by Michael Bradley.
      In case you haven't already read it, it will resonate with you, I'm sure, as it did me. It gave expression to a gnawing hunch that I, and I'm sure many others, have that there is something fundamentally, yet, dangerously and tragically flawed with the Caucasian race.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Thank you for the book recommendation. I will check it out.

  2. KM-

    I have been ranting on this subject for years since I returned from the debacle of Viet Nam.

    1. In my opinion the average American male is not mature enough or well enough trained to handle a firearm.
    2. It takes a very biased reading of the 2nd Amendment to come up with any type of 'right to own a gun'. (The beginning phrase is always omitted, "In order to ensure a well regulated militia..."). The gun manufacturers and their shills in the NRA have paid our corrupt congress enough to ensure their bias. Also the 2nd Amendment says nothing about 'guns'. 'Arms' includes chemical and nuclear weapons which, as I recall, is why we launched the illegal and ill advised war on Iraq.
    3. The argument that more guns in the hands of bystanders would prevent these acts is ludicrous. In this case, the shooter was wearing ballistic armor, tear gas was employed and in a darkened, confused setting one can only wonder at the toll had, say, only another 50 people pulled their Glocks and started shooting at each other as well as the shooter. My experience is that these untrained, untested concealed carry advocates are very brave on the firing range when confronting unarmed paper targets, but would lose control of their bodily functions if a psychopath started shooting at them.

    Guns are killing tools as you said. They are tolerated by the uninformed and frightened in our society because profiteers have twisted the constitution to their ends, paid off our legislators and supreme court and convinced many of us that we can't be safe without being armed, "When guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns." BS!

    1. Jim, as a veteran of Vietnam, you have to live with a full understanding of the implications of semi-automatic weaponry. I am glad you made it. Thank you for your perspective.

  3. Tom Levenson has a lengthy post titled: Anatomy of a Zombie Lie…

    Here's the beginning:
    Within less than a day of the Aurora shootings, a Balloon Juice reader sent me word of the absolutely predictable gun-nut push to claim that guns prevent more crime/save more lives than gun-use takes.

    We’ve seen plenty of that in the days since, with the blame-the-victim, where-are-our-John-Waynes trope getting its usual airing, as it always does after such tragedies.

    I wrote on this topic after the Gabrielle Giffords tragedy referencing some of the actual research that shows, over and over again that more guns = more gun tragedy. Go check it out if you want to be further depressed by the American gun-fetish eternal return of the same pathology.

    Here I just want to deal with one zombie lie — the one my BJ correspondent passed on to me:

    The lie that gets repeated by the media:
    "Guns used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense. Law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 2.5 million times every year — or about 6,850 times a day. This means that each year, firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives."

    That’s from a “factsheet” produced by Gun Owners of America. GOA helpfully footnotes the two sentences above, claiming independent scholarly support for the claim, which, they assert, is backed up by official federal government research:

    more from GOA:
    "Even the Clinton Justice Department (through the National Institute of Justice) found there were as many as 1.5 million defensive users of firearms every year. See National Institute of Justice, “Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms,” Research in Brief (May 1997)."

    As i mentioned, Levenson's post is lengthy, but here is an excerpt from near the end:

    Just to drive that last claim home let me point you to one study from those cited in my Giffords post referenced above:

    PHILADELPHIA – In a first-of its-kind study, epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that, on average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. The study estimated that people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.

    I thought it was an important post. Also, i really liked the following "driftglass" quote: "When then the day comes that being a member of the NRA triggers the same public gag reflex as being a member of the Klan, things will change." - driftglass

    1. Chaz, Thank you for sharing those statistics (especially the final, actual statistics). I wish the mainstream media would report on the reality that people who own guns are much more likely to be killed by them than to actually use them to defend themselves. But then, I wish the mainstream media would find reality and stick to it on a lot of issues.

  4. Yup. We're a lethal nation alright.

    Get used to living in a country in ruins.