I heard a great interview (conducted by former U.S. Attorney Preet Barara on his podcast) with Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, now a nationwide organization with more than 4,000,000 members. You can hear the entire interview here. From Moms Demand Action’s website (clickez zis link):
WHO WE ARE
Moms Demand Action was founded by stay-at-home mom Shannon Watts on December 15, 2012, in response to the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The organization quickly flourished into a leading force for gun violence prevention, with chapters in all 50 states and a powerful grassroots network of moms that has successfully effected change at the local, state and national level. In December 2013, Moms Demand Action partnered with Mayors Against Illegal Guns to unite a nationwide movement of millions of Americans working together to change the game and end the epidemic of gun violence that affects every community.
Shannon Watts has educated herself on the issue, and on the numbers. Once more I am reminded how important having the actual facts and the data are in any complicated discussion. In any talk about our violent gun culture, we need to take the actual facts of the grisly fucking case into consideration, in order to, as Barara pointed out, prioritize our efforts at fixing the problem.
For example, I had the impression that semi-automatic weapons, and the automatic ones created by using a “bump stock,” were responsible for much of the American gun carnage. Wrong, those killings amount to something like 2% of all gun murders in the U.S. Still a fairly large number, but banning assault weapons would leave 98% of all American killings by gun untouched.
Not to say it’s not important to keep powerful combat weapons out of the hands of maniacs, out of any hands, but it is perhaps more important to make sure no domestic abuser gets to legally carry any kind of fire arm. For every rich white fuck who rents a hotel room as a sniper’s nest and rains bullets from his fancy assault weapons on a crowd gathered to enjoy some music there are apparently as many as 49 incidents where somebody with a documented history of violence just takes a handgun, delivers a line from an action movie, and shoots somebody in the face.
Kids that torture small animals grow up looking for bigger game to torture. We don’t generally help these miserable kids, we smack them down. There is a lot of free-floating anger in this world, in our country, a place in which more and more people are increasingly without attractive options, or any prospects, really, more and more of them locked up in gigantic numbers for small, seemingly insignificant crimes (like a bag of marijuana, or having an attitude with a frisking cop) while the wealthiest white collar criminals coyly flaunt their immensely profitable crimes, are interviewed smiling on TV, are appointed to high government positions, never at any time in danger of prosecution. We live in a society that, in many ways, fundamentally makes no sense — outside of creating profit and wealth for an increasingly small number of winners.
So belief systems arise to explain the vexing irrationality of society. Napoleon noted that religion is what keeps the poor from killing the rich. Another old chestnut is the common historical belief among countless millions that all of our troubles come from some fucking minority group that is causing all the problems, or from mouthy women who don’t know when to shut up, or baby birds who think they are so fucking cute.
As a young school child I was bullied by a sadistic older kid named Larry Zimmerman. He menaced me at the bus stop every morning when I was six or seven years old. I don’t recall him ever punching me, although he may have, but he made it viscerally clear as he grabbed the front of my shirt that he’d like nothing more than his fist concussing my frightened little face. After a while, and an eventual visit from my father to the bus stop, Larry lost interest in bullying me. Years later, walking home from that same elementary school, I passed Larry squatting on the sidewalk. As I walked around him I saw that he was busy slowly decapitating a baby bird that had fallen from a nest.
In Junior High School Larry hung out in gym class with a kid who had a hook for one of his hands. The crew cut blond kid with the hook was cruelly mocked by classmates who called him “Captain Hook” and shit like that. Larry got the boy with the hook up on a rope, his feet clutching the big knot at the bottom of the rope, just slightly off the ground, and pushed the kid, brandishing his hook face-high, into groups of boys in their gym clothes. Hell of a scene. At one point Larry stepped back, directly into me, and fell on the ground. I recall the calm feeling I had looking at him on the ground as he looked up fearfully, seeming to recognize me.
I don’t know what eventually happened to the poor bastard, but I suspect things did not work out that well for him. By sheer happenstance, I learned that the boy with the hook grew up to be a very handsome and charming man. A friend was chatted up by him on a bus, and she gave the report, confirming that his name was Paul, that he was our age, had grown up in Queens, gone to my Junior High School (the one I own). A kid who is a bully at eight, decapitating baby birds at eleven, gleefully pushing a classmate swinging from a rope to terrify kids with his metal hook… these are all signs that this fellow probably should not be given training in firearms or a license to carry a gun.
The big problem when you have a competitive country run by well-paid, highly skilled advertisers, industry lobbyists and spinmeisters, where everything related to corporate profit is falsely framed as an issue of “liberty” and “freedom,” is that we lose the ability to look at the bigger picture. The National Rifle Association calls itself American’s oldest Civil Rights organization (it dates back to 1871, not long after the end of the Civil War many are still fighting).
True or false on the NRA as freedom fighters is, of course, a matter of your perspective. Thirty million dollars in campaign contributions to Trump in 2016 may give you some idea of their commitment to justice, fairness and responsible gun use. There are many NRA members who are not deadly fanatics, I am sure, but good people who just want to go to the range and keep their aim true. Angry people who want guns to protect themselves from human animals who need to be shot have civil rights too, I guess. We can say the same for members of fraternal organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, formed only a few years before the NRA Civil Rights group. The Klan is entitled to due process too, when they are accused of crimes and things like that.
We live in a country whose citizens have long been led to believe that there is closure available through deadly violence. The history of the old West is one example, watch any Western. Most action movies follow this simple formula: establish good characters, establish evil character, have evil character inhumanly torment and kill some good characters, surviving good character gets gun, cathartically kills evil one. Roll credits. America, I hate to point out the obvious — shooting the evil fuck in both knee caps, kicking him hard in the face, in the ribs, in the balls, shooting him in each hand, taking a knife and inflicting a deep wound in his torso, and leaving him to scream and whimper as he bleeds out, will not bring your murdered family members back to life. You think you will feel better after you torture the evil, murderous fuck to death? I don’t know. But that’s a persistent myth in the nation we live in. It’s a central part of our culture.
Is cathartic revenge the best way to address the heart-rending problem of murderous violence against innocents in a society as brutally unfair as ours? Probably not. But that’s a big reason we allow people to buy as many guns as they want. Freedom, yo.