Posts Tagged ‘National Rifle Association’

THEY

On HBO’s Homeland, they attempted to assassinate the president of the United States. Another they—the president herself—curbed Constitutional rights. In real life, survivors of the mass shooting at Parkland, Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School demand greater gun control. In response, some Americans believe they have created a conspiracy against gun owners.

Pioneer America accepted citizens’ possession of rifles and pistols. The closing of the frontier and growing urbanization necessitated curbs on weapons for public safety. Over recent decades, the gun lobby pushed back, exhibiting religious reverence for the Second Amendment: A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a  free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Questions abound. Must the right to bear arms be unmindful of technology? Muskets and muzzle-loading, single-shot rifles are relics. Who, boar hunters included, needs an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon—adaptable to automatic—designed for combat? Can any ad hoc group call itself a “well-regulated militia?” What is the National Guard? And are our armed forces our defenders or oppressors?

A large majority of Americans favor stricter gun control rather than abolition. Hunters and people in self-defense mode would not be affected. But a minority holds sacrosanct the position of the National Rifle Association, a political donor with major clout. The NRA, as does President Trump, points to mental illness as the cause of mass shootings. Their solution? Arm teachers.  

Per capita, the U.S. suffers no more mental-health problems than the rest of the world, which experiences far fewer per capita mass shootings. Further, as Dr. Amy Barnhorst of the University of California, Davis, wrote in Tuesday’s New York Times, “The mental health system doesn’t identify most of these people because they don’t come in to get care. And even if they do, laws designed to preserve the civil liberties of people with mental illness place limits on what treatments can be imposed against a person’s will.”

It’s our stock of weapons—about one for each of us—that’s sets America apart.

Still, the slippery slope theory underlies opposition to common-sense gun measures: They want to ban assault-style weapons first—then confiscate all guns. The NRA and its adherents support that position with a second theory.

They plot against the people. On Wednesday, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre excoriated Democrats and liberals: “Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our fire arms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

Stoneman Douglas survivors disagree. These young people, at the muzzle-end of real horror, have been eloquent in calling for banning assault-style weapons and determined in confronting politicians. So?

A Florida legislative assistant claimed that two students are actors; he was dismissed. A YouTube video singles out one student as an actor; it may still be online. Rush Limbaugh claimed that the students are being used by the Democrats; he’s still on the air. And Internet broadcaster Alex Jones—on whom Homeland based a major character—preaches that the dead children of Sandy Hook, Connecticut (2012 shooting) and their parents were actors.

Top that? Last Tuesday, as Stoneman Douglas students bused to Tallahassee, the Florida House voted 71–36 against discussing banning assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines.

Now I’m wondering, exactly who are they?

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PARANOIA AND BANG-BANG

Last Saturday, we celebrated July Fourth, official birthday of the United States. But we’ve never been all that united. We endured a bloody Civil War, after all. Blacks and whites lived separately. And only yesterday did South Carolina decide to remove the Confederate battle flag from Statehouse grounds. Key issues divide us. Many seem fueled by paranoia.

Liberals often see themselves and/or others as victims. All of society’s ills stem from ongoing racism and capitalism. Whites cling to entitlement. The “one percent” constitutes a brotherhood of predators. Solution: Tax the damn rich until they bleed! Maybe raise the minimum wage to $25 an hour and guarantee every individual $25,000 a year in income. Plus housing. Doesn’t it work that way in Sweden?

Conservatives fear a rapacious federal government that seeks to strip away Americans’ wealth. They include middle- and lower middle-class citizens struggling from paycheck to paycheck with no wealth to lose. They also believe that liberals don’t care about crime; they abet it. Moreover, the White House and its Black president are waging a war on Christians. Solution: Stock up on guns and ammo, the most lethal money can buy.

If posts I see on Facebook are credible, people I know in Texas, where I once lived, and Arizona really fear for their personal safety. They expect someone to knock down their door and commit mayhem. The news doesn’t comfort them. For example, Baltimore’s homicide rate is up 48% over last year; the mayor just fired the police commissioner. Will ghetto violence spread to white suburban and rural enclaves? Conservatives fear it will.

Conservatives also want to defend their freedom from Washington’s ill intentions. (The libertarians don’t like Washington but appear less threatened.) They celebrate military gear and skills, seeing themselves on freedom’s frontlines like the defenders of the Alamo. (Carolyn and I were married next door.) Interestingly, none ever volunteered for military service.

Honestly, if you love to hunt, kill it and eat it. Target shooting? Enjoy. (It’s fun!) Feel you need a gun for personal protection? I have no beef. But I do offer a caveat. My father’s best friend carried a gun. He was a union biggie in New York, a job entailing considerable risk. However, when a couple of mob goons told him he could retire either standing up or lying down, he moved to Florida. He knew they had much more firepower.

Could it be that guns aren’t the answer? A July 6 report on Yahoo News (Stephanie Pappas for LiveScience) offers the results of yet another study. “’We found no support for the hypothesis that owning more guns leads to a drop or a reduction in violent crime,’ said study researcher Michael Monuteaux, an epidemiologist and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. ‘Instead, we found the opposite.’” The article adds that studies find that as gun ownership goes up so do gun homicides.

But those are just facts. The National Rifle Association insists that guns don’t kill. People do. Conservatives support that position, including politicians threatened by NRA money. Liberals won’t listen to the fears of conservatives—people they fear. (Remember what I wrote about Baltimore?) So Americans will keep turning away from each other rather than seeking common ground. But shoot, at least we’ll all be united—by paranoia.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at www.davidperlstein.com. You can get a signed copy from me—July sale priced at $15 plus $3 postage if required—or order a soft cover or e-book at Amazon.com.

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“TOY STORY REDUX” — A PREVENTABLE FABLE

Less than twenty-four hours after coordinated attacks left more than 750 Holiday shoppers dead and twice as many wounded, the White House conceded the likelihood of a terrorist operation.

President Obama also urged shopping malls throughout the nation to reopen tomorrow. “We can not, indeed we must not, allow terrorists to derail our Holiday shopping and thus set back our fragile economy.”

The President and top security officials conducted a videoconference with the mayors and chiefs of police of the cities in which the shootings occurred: Orlando, Memphis, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and Tucson. The governors of Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Arizona attended.

A White House spokesman acknowledged that the attacks could not have been foreseen despite extensive security procedures. “Naturally, no one suspected anything was amiss. The shooter teams in each city made themselves practically invisible by walking into malls carrying AK-47 assault rifles with orange tips on their barrels.”

Federal law requires orange tips on the barrels of replica weapons to identify them as non-lethal collectors’ items.

Eyewitnesses in Dallas said that a young girl called out, “Mommy, those men have guns. I’m scared.” Her father then scolded her: “See those orange tips? Those nice men just want to have fun. Don’t you go trying to spoil someone’s Christmas.”

Members of Congress demanded that the F.B.I. bring the perpetrators to justice. They cited video cameras in all of the malls as playing a major role in the investigation. They acknowledged, however, that the shooters wore masks portraying Santa’s reindeer and elves when entering the malls.

The National Rifle Association challenged protests by groups supporting tougher gun laws. An NRA spokesman stated that sufficient federal laws already exist, and that the Second Amendment protects Americans’ rights to have toys and take them anywhere. “Let’s remember that Americans love guns. Who wouldn’t want a replica of an AK-47, not to mention the real thing?”

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Dem.-Cal.) hinted that Mrs. Pelosi might consider initiating legislation banning replicas if she can find adequate support among fellow Democrats. “Of course, serious discussions won’t be conducted until Congress comes back from its Holiday vacation. The Minority Leader also understands that this is a hot-button political issue that could endanger Democratic seats in the House.”

A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (Rep.-Ohio) dismissed as “anti-American” the possibility of a vote banning replicas coming to the House floor.

In a related matter, investigations continue into the October 22 police shooting that killed 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, California. The boy carried an AK-47 replica known as an airsoft gun, which uses compressed air to propel plastic pellets. California law requires an orange tip on the barrel of replicas but not on airsoft guns.

Manufacturers of airsoft and related paintball guns declined comment on the Holiday shootings. They cited respect for the dead and wounded.

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Read the first three chapters of SAN CAFÉ and of SLICK!, named by Kirkus Reviews as one of the 25 Best Indie Novels of 2012, at davidperlstein.com. Order at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com or bn.com. 

DO GUNS KILL PEOPLE?

Kids play at war. I did. When I was ten, friends and I made wooden rifles for mock combat. We took apart fruit and vegetable crates, did some sawing and hammered a few nails. But we knew the difference between make believe and reality. If only that were true of the National Rifle Association.

I have no brief against guns, either for hunting or self-defense. As long as weapons are licensed. And as long as they’re appropriate. Which rules out assault-type weapons good only for causing mayhem. Like the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and .40-caliber Glock handgun a man allegedly used to kill 12 people in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater a week ago.

Not that the NRA agrees. They keep reciting the same old mantra: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” As if Americans armed to the teeth don’t drive up the murder rate and body count.

Yes, even with stricter gun control, murders would occur. And yes, you can kill people with legal hunting rifles, shotguns and basic handguns. But the more lethal the weapon—and the more such weapons are made available—the greater the killing. One thing I learned in the army—the closer you get to your enemy, the greater the risk he may kill you. Bayonets? Knives? Bare hands? You take your chances. But give someone an AR-15 at ten meters (33 feet) and he can tear apart another human being—many human beings—without getting his hands dirty.

Many murderers use guns—and assault-type weapons—precisely because they make killing so easy. You stand apart—or drive by—and simply pull the trigger. Your target can outrun a knife in the hand but not a bullet. The more rounds you carry, and the more rounds your weapon can spit out, the more deadly and out of control you can be.

After the Aurora savagery, a friend posted a question on Facebook: “When is the President, Congress and the Supreme Court ever going to stand up to the National Rifle Association?” The answer is, “never.” The NRA accentuates its far-right paranoia with tons of cash targeting politicians who want to change our gun laws. Not abolish guns. Just rid us of assault-type weapons that have no place in our homes and on our streets.

While the President and many in Congress may be sympathetic to strengthening our gun laws, their overriding concerns are election and re-election. This presents Americans with a real conundrum. Politicians tell us they want to make the nation safer. But they can’t help us if NRA money boots them out of office. So they kick the can down the road and don’t help us at all.

You want courage? Watch John Wayne battle the Japanese in Sands of Iwo Jima (1949). Of course, his real name was Marion Morrison, and he never served in the military during World War Two. But John Wayne remains America’s symbol of courage. And he may as well until more politicians exhibit some spine and do battle against the perversion of freedom represented by NRA rhetoric.

Although the NRA has it half right. Guns don’t kill people. People abetted by the NRA’s undue political influence kill people.

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Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at dhperl@yahoo.com. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.