The Long Night of Gun Violence

The well-organized anger of the Right in favor of guns has silenced many Americans who recognize the madness of letting mentally fragile human beings run around with assault rifles. Will the latest massacre in Colorado do anything to change this strange lethargy, asks Tom H. Hastings.

By Tom H. Hastings

According to Pew Research, white men care more about gun rights than keeping guns out of the hands of killers. What is our glitch, our spiritual void, my fellow white guys? Can nothing but our fear and lust for unearned power rule this land?

Will no amount of innocent blood touch our hearts enough to change? It is long overdue; time to feminize and colorize the gun debate in the US. Republicans desperately need to do some soul-searching. Where did they misplace theirs?

The "Dodge City Peace Commission," June 1883. From left to right: Standing: W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson. Seated: Charlie Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain and Neal Brown. (Photo by Camillus S. Fly)

Gun nuts respond in three rhetorical ways whenever anyone has the temerity to suggest that perhaps getting guns is a bit too easy in our hyper-armed nation.

One: “If more people had been there carrying guns the shooter could have been stopped faster.”
Right. The Wild West featured that ethos and yet it was found that the more guns were restricted, the safer citizens actually were.

There were reasons we progressed out of Tombstone Territory. We are seeing why again and again and again, daily with shootings of one or two, punctuated by occasional rampages like we saw in Aurora, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; Virginia Tech; Littleton, Colorado; Washington, DC; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Springfield, Oregon; and sadly, avoidably, many more

Two: “It’s not the guns. Just look at the rate of gun ownership in places like North Dakota, yet there is little gun violence there. This is a people problem, not a gun problem.”

True enough. So let states and local governments figure it out for themselves. Of course, the way to do that is to eliminate the stupid Second Amendment or change the makeup of the Supreme Court, since the dispositive ruling by the current majority took away states’ rights in this regard.

Three: “See? These people want to take away your guns!” True. Time to melt them down and repurpose that material to plowshares. Long past time.

My real question here is: What happened to the spirits of those who are so addicted to guns? What is wrong with these people’s souls? What would Jesus do? Surely no one calling himself or herself a Christian would own a gun, an instrument which has one purpose, to kill or threaten to kill. Love your guns or love Christ, but the two are mutually exclusive. Make your choice.

At least the politicians are standing up. Not. One did — Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York. Thank you, mayor. Perhaps a few more will buck the trend back toward Deadwood Gulch. Americans seem resigned to more guns, toward lawlessness.

Perhaps America is just too sick to recover, but that hopelessness, that defeatism, isn’t an option. The gun lobby, the NRA, the armed Tea Party, may not care about the three-month-old baby who was shot in the movie theater, but more of us should wake up and get involved, get rid of these killing machines.

Tom H. Hastings (pcwtom@gmail.com), Portland, Oregon, teaches and writes about nonviolence.

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25 comments on “The Long Night of Gun Violence

  1. Guy McCullough on said:

    The NRA is a plague on this nation. It is nothing more that a Public Relations front for a gun running industry with total disregard for who or how its product is used–including military style assault weapons so essential for mass murder.

  2. F. G. Sanford on said:

    In Switzerland, every single able-bodied male does military training at the age of majority, and is sent home as a reservist. He is sent home WITH HIS ASSAULT RIFLE, which eliminates the need to maintain armories. None of this stuff ever happens in Switzerland, where EVERYBODY has an assault rifle. Switzerland is not plagued by religious lunacy, poverty, organized crime, massive unemployment or a literacy problem either. America is a third world country with a first world economy, and we are proud of it. We are ignorant, yet have the audacity to boast about our lunatic points of view. We practice a foreign policy which is biblical in its destructive wrath. Our intellectuals are imported from other countries; we hardly produce any of our own.

    It started with Ben Franklin and many of the founders. Washington imported Lafayette and Pulaski. Lincoln tried to hire Garibaldi because competent generals were in short supply. Garibaldi had better sense. Tesla and Marconi came later. Fermi, Einstein and a host of others from Italy, Germany, Austria and other European countries came when economies failed under collapsing monarchies. Lunatic religious and political ideologies contributed to those migrations as well. Natural resources, favorable ecology, a geographic defense and burgeoning industrialism fueled by immigrant ingenuity got us past world depression and the world wars.

    Shit started to hit the fan when Texas and Pennsylvania ran out of oil. Rather than rely on our ingenuity, we embarked on a plan to steal it from backward, illiterate, primitive religious lunatic countries. We assumed they would remain backward, illiterate, primitive, gullible religious lunatic fanatics forever. We would be able to driver bigger cars, build bigger houses, take more vacations and get fatter and lazier forever while they continued to ride camels and live in mud-brick shacks. And, we would provide “democracy” to keep them grateful. “Continuous Growth” would insure a bright future for America as we transitioned to a “Service Economy”.

    Technology boomed as our Nazi scientists out-maneuvered their Nazi scientists. Then, with a misguided sense of superiority, we decided it was time to take over the world. We had to start importing intellectuals from India, China and Korea. Cheap labor came from Mexico and other failed economies. None of those recruits had any common interests other than escape from poverty. People like Soros, Kissinger, Brzezinski, Murdoch and others with heavy accents meddle in our politics. Dual-citizen politicians meddle in our foreign affairs. But we find it appropriate to cut spending on education and infrastructure. Instead, we provide at least three billion a year in military aid to a racist apartheid lunatic theocracy. We have proud, patriotic ceremonies where members of our armed forces are granted citizenship. Mercenary armies, mind you, are a hallmark of empire in decline. As the 1% continues to gut the nation with the aid of right-wing religious lunatic ignorance, things will continue to decline. As climate changes, food will be the next thing to run out. I wonder where we’ll steal that?

    We are involved in half a dozen wars. None of them is defending anything that looks like freedom, liberty or democracy. Those kids come home traumatized with job prospects at Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Home Depot, or one of those famous “small businesses” that create jobs: Dry cleaner, nail studio, body shop, tattoo parlor, bar and grill, bowling alley, etc. Yes, I agree. People with futures like that have no business owning guns. They’d probably blow their brains out. Of course, getting tattoos or eating fast food should not be their priorities either. But it’s a free country. We fought for those freedoms and we deserve to be as loony as we want. After all, guns don’t kill people, bullets do. You can bet your ass I would like to live in a country where everybody is educated, safe, free of poverty and allowed to own a gun. But I can’t afford to live in Switzerland. The taxes are too high.

    • Israelis go a step further. Every Israeli Jew, both male and female, when turned 16 – go through military training and after completion – are required to serve active military duty – male, 24 months and female, 18 months. The top in service are absorbed into regular army while the rest are put into ‘reserve force’. However, when some of them are killed by Palestinians – those ‘reserves’ become ‘civilian Jews’.

      http://rehmat1.com/2009/08/10/terrorism-theirs-and-ours/

      • Big Em on said:

        C’mon Rehmat – - – you’re REALLY grasping at straws to try to make this into some sort of Jewish/Zionist event. We’re there Jews/Zionists peripherally involved? Sure.. Were there Catholics, Lutherans, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, Liberals, Conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, etc, etc ‘involved’ in the same way? Yeah. Is it at all germane or important? No. I know that ‘to a hammer everything looks like a nail’, but give it a rest once in awhile..

      • rosemerry on said:

        check out Uri Avnery’s latest post.The extremist orthodox nonworking but praying and reproducing Jews do NOT serve, and it causes a lot of ill feeling.
        (Not that Israel is a part of this discussion).
        US citizens seem to expect to solve any problem by violence. I could not live in a land where nobody trusts his fellow man or woman.

    • voltaic on said:

      None of this happens in Great Britain either and they don’t all carry assault rifles. You gun freaks seem to believe that the more guns that are available the fewer deaths will be attributable to guns.

      The US ranks just below Zimbabwe in firearm murders at 4.14 per 100,000 population; how’s that for a comparison?

      And how about this about Switzerland gun crazies? To carry firearms in public or outdoors (and for an individual who is a member of the militia carrying a firearm other than his Army-issue personal weapons off-duty), a person must have a gun carrying permit, which in most cases is issued only to private citizens working in occupations such as security.

      Switzerland has about 3 million guns and a population of about 8 million (.37 guns per person) while US has a population of 310,000,000 and about 350,000,000 guns! That’s more than 1 gun per US citizen, which shows we are not safer in US because of more guns per capita; it proves just the opposite……

      Go read a book and stop watching FOX news and listening to Rush “drug convict” Limbaugh….

      You gun mad hatters cherry pick all your little facts and ignore everything else.

    • je_proteste on said:

      You are misinformed about Switzerland. They have vary strict laws regulating control of those weapons. (And universal male conscription goes with that universal male assault rifle ownership.) They also have strict gun control laws regarding handguns. The last report I saw stated that Switzerland had the second highest handgun ownership rate in industrialized Europe – and the second highest rate of gun-related deaths – including a homicide rate higher than those of,e.g., Austria, France, and Denmark. Their rate of suicide using firearms is quite high.

      Even a May, 2007, Time magazine story that starts out with the usual laxity of reports on the Swiss and guns finally states:

      “Murmurs of discontent have been reverberating since 2001, when a disgruntled citizen opened fire with his army rifle inside the chamber of a regional parliament, killing 14 and injuring 14 others. Opposition to the guns-at-home tradition gained momentum last year when a ski champion was shot to death by her husband. And, in the past few weeks, discontent has grown more vociferous following reports of a man brandishing his army rifle in a hotel, killing one person and injuring four others. “Keeping guns at home is outdated, useless and dangerous,” says Chantal Gallard, a socialist parliamentarian who is spearheading the fight for stricter arms legislation.

      Gallard’s argument is bolstered by statistics showing 300 gun-related deaths — mostly suicides — every year. “These deaths are impulsive decisions taken in the heat of the moment,” says Hans Kurt, who heads the Swiss Society of Psychiatrists and Psychotherapists, and supports tougher gun-control laws. “Take away an easy access to a gun, and these tragedies are preventable.”

      http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1616393,00.html

      None of this stuff happens in Switzerland?

      You are correct when you state:
      “Switzerland is not plagued by religious lunacy, poverty, organized crime, massive unemployment or a literacy problem either.” We also have a less responsible society overall. Many a joke is made about the Swiss who is hesitant to litter for fear of the police – and the neighbors. But there is a fundamental difference of attitude between Western Europeans and Americans, which you demonstrate for us:

      “You can bet your ass I would like to live in a country where everybody is educated, safe, free of poverty and allowed to own a gun. But I can’t afford to live in Switzerland. The taxes are too high.”

      You would like the benefits that high taxes confer – but without having to pay those taxes yourself?

      That kind of attitude boggles the minds of my European friends.

      Your description of the peoples of the Middle East does not bear scrutiny.

      • F. G. Sanford on said:

        Mr. Proteste,
        Thanks for your response. I would be happy to pay those taxes, but on my limited income, I would starve. Please also note that my depiction of peoples of the Middle East represents the farcical stereotype upon which Americans base their attitudes. Having spent plenty of time there, I realize that today, only tourists ride camels. Back in the day when we and the British, French and Italians initiated our “slice and dice” strategy to parcel out the entire region, it was easy to sell based on that stereotype. Today, we have the US, UK and French still stirring the soup. No wonder the alternative media refers to it as the FUKUS coalition. My point is nevertheless true: we have exploited the region and justified it based on a sense of ‘manifest destiny’ and self-righteousness. I’ve been to Switzerland too. Given that I’m not prone to littering, I have to wonder what y’all are complaining about. You ought to see Philadelphia.

        • je_proteste on said:

          Your income might not be so limited, if you lived in Switzerland, and, depending on your circumstances, you might find your money going farther. But if your income were truly low, you wouldn’t be paying high taxes. For myself, Switzerland is definitely not the country I would aim for: it’s just too weird. (And Schweizerdeutsch sets my teeth on edge.)

          I am not advocating littering. (I don’t do it, and I detest when others do.) I used it to demonstrate the obsessive nature of the Swiss.

          Nothing on the truths I wrote about Switzerland and gun control? Thought not. Easier to distort my comment about littering.

          If my snark-meter failed on your reference to Arabs, I apologize.

          How do you manage to do all that traveling on a limited income?

          • F. G. Sanford on said:

            I’d probably better keep that to myself. RT just did a blurb on Switzerland and gun violence. They agreed with me. By the way, I got along in Switzerland with English and money. They understand both just fine.

  3. Hillary on said:

    F. G. Sanford on July 21, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Wow — still recovering from all you said so well.

    As Harry Lime said — Switzerland had peace and tranquility for 300 years and produced —– the cookoo clock.

    Italy had wars pestilence and poverty for 300 years and produced the Renaissance and Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci.

  4. Marilyn A.F. on said:

    Wow! is correct; I’m trying to absorb the article by Mr. Hastings and the comments. All over the map and many, IMO, are not based on history or logic.

    Working from the top down–I disagree with Hastings that the impetus behind the ‘right-wing’ love of guns is testament to skewed values. ‘A well-regulated militia’ in Revolutionary days meant citizens armed and ready to defend their liberties. Both the Swiss and Israelis are on to something.

    The Founding Fathers saw government abuses potentially dangerous to rights that they had wrested from England at great price. Lest we forget. We are in the thrall of a few elites who have a profound distain for democracy. Confiscating guns is a tried-and-true means of suppressing legitimate dissent. Michael (Nanny) Bloomberg hardly represents populist political theory. He bought himself three mayoral terms. He speaks for the globalist agenda with a silver, forked tongue. Kissinger and his ilk are parasites who need to be demoted in the public arena.

    Next, Einstein, Fermi and Marconi are scientists, not necessarily of a philosophical bent. Their thrust is science, which has no basis in morality, except as an afterthought–after, perhaps, their inventions have damgaged the fabric of society. Science proffers theories and those discoveries take on a life of their own, often to the detriment of humanity when applied for commercial reasons and self-promotion. (Excessive crude oil production, the splitting of the atom, GMO crops, geoengineering climate, etc., are not particularly beneficial.)

    To paraphrase a quote I like: While the angels are deciding what to do with a new discovery, the devil takes it and runs. True, so true.

    But getting back to forced gun control, I am a disaffected Democrat and will not vote for either party until they come up with sane policy and an authentic American candidate who respects our Constitution and is not swayed by money and global politics. A well-regulated militia being necessary to protect one’s family and country. We are the government. Thank you.

    • F. G. Sanford on said:

      Marylin, what is there to absorb in Mr. Hasting’s article? his basic premise is:

      “What would Jesus do? Surely no one calling himself or herself a Christian would own a gun, an instrument which has one purpose, to kill or threaten to kill. Love your guns or love Christ, but the two are mutually exclusive. Make your choice.”

      It’s an infantile, delusional irrational bit of loony-bin superstition which fails to address reality. We live in a carnivorous culture. We treat each other like a well-fed cat treats a mouse. The primary rationalization we use for morality is a barbaric book based on the most vile mythology of proto-civilization. The article is unspeakably hideous in its abject failure to recognize the insanity of religion, then try to substitute that same psychotic logic as a solution.

      • Marilyn A.F. on said:

        Hastings speaks from a very narrow religious mindset. When trying to decipher that perspective, though it is steeped in selective Biblical citation, you may find yourself agreeing and disagreeing.

        Agree, how you conduct your life should be premised on socially-applied ethics; your personal moral compass is usually preset by a culture in which you gained first conscious awareness; some are born with psychotic personalities trumping normal social interaction.

        Disagree with the proposition that morality can be reduced to simplistic formulas. On this we concur. For example, I ask questions such as why is crime in modern America so closely tied to illegal drug trafficking? If there was no drug trade, there would be far less street crime and death of innocent bystanders. Then consider what interests are involved in importing drugs and laundering drug money. Follow the money and solve the crime.

        It is no coincidence that “Fast and Furious” gun running involved drug cartels in Mexico. There is more there than meets the eye, IMO.

        • F. G. Sanford on said:

          Thanks for your thoughtful response. I am somewhat skeptical of all the moralizing on this issue when I am reminded that about 100,000 deaths occur annually in USA from medical mistakes and 40,000 die annually on the highway. How about this headline for an ass-grabber: “Police Killings of People of Color a Systemic Problem Report finds one African American dies in extrajudicial killing every 36 hours” from “The Real News”, http://www.therealnews.com. Another good one is the story about Portugal decriminalizaing all drugs. I can’t cite a reference, but as they say, “The truth is out there”. Bottom line is no increase in usage or criminal behavior. The drug war is a fraud. All those “Christians” gnash there teeth over reproductive rights, but the best they can do here is wonder, “What would Jesus do?” He would remind them of their hypocrisy, stating, “Woe unto you, for you strain at a gnat but swallow a camel”.

    • je_proteste on said:

      Marilyn, do you really think the Founding Fathers wanted the people to be prepared to fight against the brand-new government that those very founders had just established? Really? They knew of government excesses, it is true, but they worked to give us a system that would avoid those excesses – if we took care of it throughout successive generations.

      Militias are not for the protection of the people from the government. Militias are for the protection of the nation, (including the government), from its foes.

  5. Morton Kurzweil on said:

    “the madness of letting mentally fragile human beings run around with assault rifles.”?
    The madness of human beings who must identify with a gang to have a sense of social
    acceptance is the lure of religion, politics, and every organization which seeks to control
    human behavior.
    Suicide bombers, torturers, economic and and political parties who collude to coerce and
    suppress others do so to be socially acceptable, to act out the morality and ethics of that
    society.
    The extreme expressions enact the extent of paranoia which drives individuals to violence.
    There is no sane reason to explain such acts except as wanton criminality against humanity.
    Self defense implies lack of trust in government. Revolution or anarchy becomes the accepted
    behavior of those who deny the rights of all people in a democracy. These delusional criminals
    must be denied the arms and respect for those claims of free speech which lead to such
    terrorist acts.

  6. George W Obama on said:

    “Americans who recognize the madness of letting mentally fragile human beings run around with assault rifles”

    We let mentally fragile human beings run around with drones. Obama killed 9 Afghan boys because they were collecting firewood. Bush killed 100,000 Iraqis because they have oil.

    So the horror of twelve people being killed at a movie is that it was not done for profit?

  7. Insanity knows no limit. The problem is people, not guns. If we look at countries where guns are illegal, we see little diminished in murder or mayhem. If it is not a gun, the vandal mind will resort to machetes, bombs, and flame throwing devices. Broken homes, isolated kids and adults, twisted minds, and those who see no place for themselves are among us. We have a responsibility to reach out. And to mitigate the problem, people need social interaction and know they are held accountable, … meaning they are needed to be a part of social sensibilities. Law, legislation, is proven to fail in “all” cases. Having been in a Law Enforcement role, responsible, capable community is the best deterrent, but insanity and evil is a fact of life.

  8. doneck on said:

    I don’t know what Jesus would do, but I know what Saul and his 21,000 troops would have done when ordered to carry out the Lord’s command for the mass killings of “man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” They would have used AK-47s if they were available. Assault weapons are definitely compatible with Judeo-Christianity.

    • F. G. Sanford on said:

      At last, a kindred opinion! They all wonder what Jesus would do. He would condemn their hypocrisy: “Inside you are like whited sepulchers, full of dead mens bones and all things unclean”. This was a tragedy. But we kill thousands “over there”, and nobody protests. When the vilified figure of Reverend Wright spoke of, “America’s chickens coming home to roost”, this is exactly what he was talking about. But “Christians” weren’t listening then.

  9. Terry Washington on said:

    All I can say is: THANK GOD I LIVE IN THE UK( away from all that gun nonsense-yes, we have occasional outbursts of shooting violence-Derick Bird and Michael Ryan- but nOTHING on the scale of the USA)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Marilyn A.F. on said:

      Oh, please, Terry. Wake up and smell the decay in Britain–a beta test of what will soon be America’s plight. Deindustrialization, the power elite in a totalitarian dance of death. Spy cameras deployed in neighborhoods to watch citizens, roving bands of unemployed youth with no future and a sketchy past, a willingness to embrace violent Muslim culture with its no-freedom Sharia laws, Sharia courts, Sharia banking. (The great ‘global village’ on your doorstep.)

      Brits have been relieved of hand guns for self-protection. Who will be policing the swat-teamed police? Certainly not the vaunted oligarchs of your ‘constitutional monarchy’–an imperial bureaucracy on steroids.

      Most Englishmen and women fall in prostration before Queen Elizabeth. It’s all a bit of contrived theater. The English have never gotten beyond the fiction of empire. Your caste system is as self-defeating as India’s. You won’t progress until you throw off those who prosper at the expense of working people. By equating social reform with Communism, the Western elite keep you in mental irons. A God vs. the bad guys trope is universal.