Sunday, October 08, 2017

America and Its Guns -- A Bi-Partisan Love Affair

According to a study by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the rate of gun-related deaths in the United States is roughly twice as high as the Palestinian Territories’, four times India’s or Pakistan’s, five times Iran’s, eight times Canada’s, 27 times Denmark’s, 32 times Germany’s, 64 times China’s, 100 times Japan’s, and well over 100 times the rate in Singapore.  So what is our response to this scourge?   To regulate bump stocks.  Maybe.

It’s a bit like the German government reacting to the Holocaust by doing nothing more than regulating the use of Zyklon B gas?  Talk about confronting a symptom, not the disease.

In our case, the disease is clear: we love guns.  By “we,” I mean the people who run Blue as well as Red America.  And let’s face it, our leaders aren’t the only ones who’ve been smitten.  On these shores, you’ll find at least twice as many guns per capita as anywhere else.  In fact, if we buried 75% of our firearms, we’d still rank among the top 10% in the world in gun ownership. 

As of 2013, America had roughly 40 million more guns than people.  And the thought of banning handguns is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  Whereas 60% of Americans supported such a ban in the year I was born, that percentage has now dropped to less than 25 

Lest you think this is a partisan issue, think again.  In 2008, candidate Hillary Clinton touted the American gun culture.  "You know,” she said, “my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl. ...[S]ome people now continue to teach their children and their grandchildren. It's part of culture. It's part of a way of life. People enjoy hunting and shooting because it's an important part of who they are. Not because they are bitter."

Hillary is not alone among politicians in her party.  Bernie Sanders has also referred to himself as “pro gun and pro hunting.”   But to appreciate the Democrats’ love for guns, don’t simply focus on the statements of their politicians.  Focus on what their politicians are NOT saying.  Namely, focus on their conspiracy of silence in reaction to the work of some of their most reliable and powerful sets of supporters: the moguls and “stars” of Hollywood.

I’m reluctant to join in the chorus of criticism against Hollywood because it’s often a thinly veiled way of expressing anti-Semitism.  But on the issue of guns, Tinsel Town must be taken to task.  Its infatuation with guns has reached epidemic proportions. 

As any movie lover can tell you, the role of guns in movies is becoming increasingly central, and I’m not just referring to R rated movies.  Even PG13 movies are awash in gun-induced blood.  One study found that of the top-grossing movies over the past quarter century, nine out of ten contained a main character who is violent.  So not only does America love guns, we export this love to movie-watching audiences all over the world.

Believe me, I’m not simply looking back longingly for the “old days” of film.  Notably, while our on-screen heroes are becoming more and more weaponized, they are drinking less alcohol and smoking way fewer cigarettes.  Apparently, substance abuse isn’t as cool now as it used to be, thank God.  But weapons?  Those are way cool.

I’m often reminded of that line from the James Bond movie, “The Living Daylights,” in which James Bond was armed with a handgun, but Brad Whittaker carried a machine gun and delightfully so.  “You’ve had your eight,” he chuckled, “now I’ll have my 80.”  What followed was a fusillade of bullets, something that was once confined to war movies but has now become commonplace in all sorts of film genres, and especially the high budget films.

“I know what you're thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”  That was the climax of one of the most iconic scenes in the history of American cinema.  It comes from the 1971 classic, Dirty Harry, which at the time was associated with a big powerful man carrying a big powerful gun.  Today, however, that gun would be thought of as a joke.  After all, what kind of amateur would bring a six shooter now to a gun fight?  Certainly not Stephen Paddock, Omar Saddiqui Mateen, Seung-Hui Cho, or Adam Lanza.  Those men are all modern, sophisticated gun users.  They recognize that American consumers have the right to possess weapons that fire large numbers of bullets in an extremely short period of time.   They also recognize that we Americans possess these rights because, apparently, such weapons help to put us in a better position when we are hunting animals or protecting ourselves against human intruders. 

Well, please allow me to respond to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic politicians who are willing to praise guns in return for votes. And please allow me to respond to the Republican politicians who won’t buck the NRA no matter how many Americans are gunned down on the streets of this country, or to the Hollywood moguls who make movies involving assault weapons that kill lots of people, or to the “liberal” actors who appear in those movies.  For all of you, I offer the following response:

I hate guns.  I don’t think they are cool.  I think they are ugly.

I hate hunting.  I hate the idea that human beings shed innocent animal blood.  And yes, I hate the idea that people feel entitled to kill animals in order to eat them.    

I hate the idea that a human being would call killing a defenseless animal a “sport.” 

Yes, I understand that sometimes herds have to be thinned.  So thin them – but say the Mourners Kaddish when you do.

And yes, I understand that sometimes people need to be shot in self-defense.  But nobody in this country, except for soldiers and police officers, needs assault weapons in order to defend themselves.

As for what happened in Las Vegas last weekend, it is unspeakable.  But it is also characteristically American. 

There is an old saw that says “When you go to bed with dogs, you wake up with fleas.”  But when you go to bed with guns, you sometimes don’t wake up at all.


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