This article is an excerpt from 'Power to The People', a book in progress.
While first acknowledging that there are countless lobbies working to influence the public’s perceptions, and the government’s policies, at work in America, and further recognizing that Americans are entitled to associate as they please, including forming blocks intended to influence the direction their nation is heading, while warning that many of the extant lobbies represent, openly or, more often covertly, foreign interests, be they nationalistic or corporate, and that a lack of transparency in these matters is a key stumbling block for a just and free society, in America today one such group of lobbyists has attained a stature and level of influence entirely out of proportion with its membership by skillfully playing on both the typical American's reverence for the Constitution and the reluctance, or unwillingness of elected representatives to challenge or even risk offending that singularly vocal, active membership.
I refer, of course, to the gun lobby, which in turn devolves, in essence, to the National Rifle Association, its executives in particular.
I believe that these people represent a unique danger to the American public, while simultaneously recognizing their legal right to exist and propagate their agenda. I will, in presenting the overview of the matter, exercise my own right to opine as to where and how they are, however, not representative of the vast majority of Americans, where they have most egregiously acted to undermine any opposition and have actively, and criminally, worked to frame the public discourse where gun violence is concerned, as well as their past successful effort to rid themselves of any notion of responsibility, be it moral, civil or criminal, for their role, and that of their constituent firearms manufacturers in the ever-increasing, increasingly appalling epidemic of mass shootings in America, as well as their responsibility where shootings occur as part of violent crime in America.
As always, and while I will employ certain statistics to make my arguments, I warn that numbers are, as always, highly subject to manipulation in the service of whatever agenda presents them, and this field is highly representative of that phenomenon. And so while I will present a handful of statistics, I will use as few as possible, while pointing out where they have been successfully manipulated by the gun lobby which, if it hasn't become apparent yet, I will remove all doubt as to my own position regarding them by stating that I am intellectually, emotionally, morally and ethically opposed to it and all that it has come to represent.
Let this bias be clearly noted.
The 2nd Amendment Position
We have already touched upon this issue, so I will be brief in returning to it now. The Constitution of the United States of America absolutely provides for an armed citizenry. But it does so with the expectation that those armed citizens will use these arms as intended.
Which is not to shoot at one another, nor even as a defense against a foreign enemy, particularly not since the establishment of a standing, professional American armed forces.
The 2nd Amendment was written with one particular aim in mind, and that was to keep the American people armed in the event that their own government should prove corrupt and that all other methods of redressing this situation fail.
In short, all those guns were intended to be pointed at the heads of your elected representatives in order to assure that they remain honest, that government restrict itself to those roles originally assigned it and that the American people should maintain a firm hand on their and their descendants’ rights and freedom.
I repeat the highly relevant Jefferson quotes pertaining to this subject:
“The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”
- Thomas Jefferson
In short, the power in America rests in the hands, hearts and minds of its citizenry, not its appointed bureaucrats and to ensure that it remains that way, the American people have the right to keep and bear arms for the specific purpose of settling any arguments should said bureaucrats begin entertaining other, less honest or loyal notions concerning their status and privileges attendant. Because that never happens…
And, as it is highly relevant to any argument I may put forth:
“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
- Thomas Jefferson
I would propose that the current, appalling state of affairs involving firearms and mass shootings, to say nothing of their vastly more frequent involvement in instances of violent crime, represent just the sort of situation wherein even one of the authors of the Constitution would advocate that it, in this instance being the 2nd Amendment, be reconsidered in light of developments subsequent to it having been passed.
The first, most obvious change being that, while the American peoples’ forefathers were men who lived in an age much more tolerant of violence as a solution to social injustice, at least in theory, though the current citizenry’s failure to act in the face of the rising tide of violence against them might imply otherwise, they did not predict the invention and widespread civilian possession of weapons equipped with high ammunition capacity, rapid rate of fire, greatly extended effective range, ammunition designed to maim or kill, or to defeat personal protection, silencers, flash suppressors, etc., etc. In short, weapons of war.
Next, we must consider the society in which we now live. Civil disobedience has evolved from armed insurrection to more peaceful, if not always peacefully received, methods, and in such an environment, where armed resistance is nigh-unthinkable, though of course I must remind that it is the solution of choice for my co-author, the esteemed Thomas Jefferson, in the peace-loving society in which we live today, there is no place for widespread violence as an instrument of public policy. And if violence is no longer a palatable option for addressing governmental corruption, then there is no need for the 2nd Amendment and it should therefore be repealed or, at the very least, in recognition of America’s apparent conviction that its citizens have the right to arm themselves, at least consider amending the Amendment to limit civilian gun owners to a saner level of equipage suitable for hunting, personal protection, and the defense of ones’ neighbors, loved ones and property.
The argument to this typically runs along the lines of ‘if it’s criminal to own an assault weapon, then only criminals will own them’ which, while undeniably true, ignores the role that law enforcement and, in extremis, the military play in keeping the American people safe. While criminals may be heavily armed for a time, police and other agencies will steadily, over time, diminish and eventually all but eliminate this threat, as has been shown by, in essence, the rest of the civilized world.
But those whose interests lie in maintaining the current, insane, state of affairs have devoted a great deal of time, effort and money to keep things the way they are. I will present other strategies shortly, but first I will try to put the issue of the Constitution to bed.
The Constitution of the United States of America has been repeatedly amended to reflect changes in social mores, or to address legal issues and it no doubt will be again. It is sacred, not in its inviolate status, which is a myth even Jefferson and his fellow Founding Fathers dismissed, but because it represents the best of America and what it means to be American, the liberty and freedom thus embodied.
So preying on the populace’s reverence for the document while hand-waving away any attention paid to the fact that it has been significantly amended in the past, typically for the better, the gun lobby would have Americans believe that any movement to consider changing or abolishing the 2nd Amendment is somehow unpatriotic, or un-American when, in fact, the conscientious, considerate application of evolving morals, changing social climates or emerging, unforeseen circumstances is precisely the type of behavior that the Founding Fathers envisioned and in Jefferson’s case at least, actively advocated.
Waving the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment like some kind of magic wand has worked for the gun lobby for decades. Isn’t it time that Americans grew weary of such blatant manipulation and tackled the issue on merit, not according to pulls on the knee-jerk reactions that have dominated and thereby undermined any efforts at real discussion?
Invoking the 2nd Amendment is one rabid old dog’s one and only trick.
Mass shootings and violent crime
I must first point out that the gun lobby, particularly through its bought and paid-for resources in the media, has managed another impressive bit of sleight-of-hand.
Whenever the topic of mass shootings come up, and the numbers inevitably follow, for some reason the US media, at least that share of it aligned with the gun lobby, always maintains that any statistics on the topic do not include mass shootings that were part of some other form of criminal activity. As though the people shot, either as participants or, tragically, as innocent bystanders or even victims of the criminal act in question are in any way less dead, or that firearms, be they handguns or assault weapons, were somehow not involved.
This particular instance of massaging the numbers is both ridiculous when examined from any rational point of view and both an insult to, and a crime against the American people, many of whom sadly accept whatever numbers are put before them, if done so by the flavor of news they favor.
It is so obvious as to embarrass me by the need to write this, but when examining the issue of gun-related violence, all issues of gun-related violence count and need to be considered.
That said, let us take a brief look at the most current, as of this writing, numbers on the subject. In the interests of clarity I will cite all sources, and where the numbers differ significantly between major media sources, I will provide the dissenting figures and sources as well. Perhaps a pattern (or patterns) may emerge.
The first and most telling statistic informs that the US, whose population represents 1/20th of the world’s total, is responsible for fully one-third of global mass shootings, and as recent events have indicated, that number is increasing as mass shootings in America continue to escalate in both frequency and resulting fatalities.
This number is, to me, utterly mind-numbing, and for context, the second-closest nation in terms of mass shooting violence is South Africa, with less than half those numbers. After that, it’s not even close.
Again, these figures reflect only instances of mass shootings unrelated to any other violent acts. Factor in those numbers and the results are chilling, defying any rational, humane explanation or excuse. Please keep this in mind when considering the gun lobby and its apologists’ attempts to spin the issue, or deflect attention from it.
One particularly common tactic is to claim, in the aftermath of the latest gun-related atrocity, that ‘now is not the time’ to discuss it. If not now, then when? Particularly when these shootings are increasing in frequency to the point that it’s still ‘not time’ to discuss one when there’s been another, and another since.
Now is absolutely the time to address this topic, and as a whole, as opposed to just focusing on the latest round of killings.
According to the Gun Violence Archive [Courtesy of & Referenced at http://www.gunviolencearchive.org], an apparently independent source which I will use as a base against which the various media outlets will be compared, the following figures, which I have been horrified to watch as they grew while writing this book, represent gun violence in America in the year 2017, current to December 31:
A sobering 22,000 Annual Suicides, presumably involving the use of firearms, given the context in which it was mentioned, weren’t included in this tallying of the Daily Summary Ledger.
Past years’ figures, at least dating back to 2014, show a steady increase in the number of incidents, deaths, injuries etc., a trend that accelerated even more steeply starting in 2016, may be found at the Gun Violence Archive – Past Tolls site [http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/past-tolls].
Before going any further, I need to emphasize this: These are not strangers, not foreigners, not people who in any way ‘don't matter’. They could be your friends, your neighbors, your family. Or even you. If nothing else, these are your fellow Americans and deserve your concern. No matter their ethnicity, social status, political or religious beliefs. If there is to be any hope of revitalizing your nation, it needs to begin with being involved when and where it matters, and if the senseless killing of your fellow human beings, your fellow Americans doesn’t matter to you, then I must respectfully suggest that you are reading the wrong book.
Another sobering fact to consider: It has frequently been cited that these shootings would have been even worse if not for the quick action by law enforcement, who have been trained to handle these situations.
While it should be comforting that the brave people who put their lives on the line to protect you and yours have been trained to react to these shooting sprees, it should also be alarming to consider the necessity for such training. And the implication that law enforcement, and by extension your government, recognizes that they have a crisis on their hands and, in the case of law enforcement, are doing their very best to contain it, while your policymakers continue to sit on their hands, afraid of the gun lobby, while you or your fellow citizens are being senselessly killed or maimed.
I was also disheartened to learn that victims of these shootings are, if not lucky enough to have extensive health insurance coverage, frequently bankrupted by their medical bills, both for the immediate trauma and, in many cases, the resulting life-long issues they suffer, in addition to the pain and horror of being victimized in the first place.
Which leads me to…
Which is to say that two-thirds of your elected officials were either of the moral stance that gun manufacturers and distributors, unlike similar entities in every other field of manufacture and commerce in America, were not liable for the damage done by their products, or the distribution thereof.
This incomprehensibly cynical example of government pandering to a special interest bears repeating:
No other field of manufacture, or distribution, from cars to pharmaceuticals to industrial equipment to, well, anything at all enjoys similar protection from the consequences of their products’ use, or misuse.
The law was, of course, the result of intense and, as the numbers show, bi-partisan lobbying, which is to say the buying of elected officials’ votes, or the coercion thereof through the actions of the highly organized and motivated gun lobby, fronted by the NRA, who apparently saw the then-recent judgment against America’s tobacco companies, which amounted to a fine of over two-hundred billion dollars, and foresaw that their industry bore several notable similarities to Big Tobacco and so they did what any reasonable organization would in the face of crippling levies against them:
They cleaned up their act.
No, that’s not it. They mobilized to get a Federal law passed exempting them from any consequences, legal or civil, of the use or misuse of their products. And the American government, ever eager to make a buck where it could, and sensitive to political pressure from such an organized and motivated voter base who, it must be noted, comprise roughly 0.015% of the American population as of this writing, obligingly set aside any moral or ethical quandaries this might present and passed this protection into law by an overwhelming majority.
Which, one might argue, and some certainly have, must surely have represented the will of the people?
Not even close. While I don't have figures for 2005 at hand, recent polls have shown that fully 2/3 of American households do not own guns and that more than eighty percent of Americans favor stricter gun control laws.
What can you do about it?
Which brings us back to the issue of citizens’ — voter’s — involvement, in being aware of and educated with regards to the important issues facing you as a nation.
In the wake of the latest series of mass shootings, there has been talk, more so than any time in recent memory, of ‘doing something’ about this. Which, of course, the gun lobby does its best to deflect, saying ‘now is not the time' or generally trying to drown the public in a flood of propaganda, scare tactics, banging on the ever-reliable 2nd Amendment button, etc., and many people have, perhaps rightly, wondered what they can do against such a seemingly monolithic lobby, coupled with the weight of history and whatever else might be thrown in a concerned citizen’s path.
The answer is vote. Make your voice heard, and your vote count. If the above numbers are to be believed, then those who favor stricter, saner gun control outnumber those who don’t. Make those numbers count. No Senator or Congressman, regardless of the size of the bribe they’ve accepted, in whatever form it takes, who values his position, never mind questions of ethics, would dare go against the clearly expressed wishes of the majority of his constituents. You have the power. But you need to get organized, and active, to make that power count.
As far as how to apply it most effectively in this case?
I would humbly suggest that overthrowing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act would be an excellent place to begin. Even if in so doing your lawmakers slip in a clause preventing criminal or civil charges being filed for incidents occurring before the date the law is repealed, future likely, if not inevitable atrocities will sadly persist, though over time, if events in other countries that have introduced gun control measures following tragedies of their own, such as Australia, show that, over time, things will get better. There are other factors to consider, of course, such as the inability of many mentally ill persons to find treatment, a problem that was significantly escalated by Ronald Reagan, first as Governor of California, and then as the 40th President of the United States of America, as the numbers suggest a strong correlation between this mass disenfranchising of the mentally ill and the rise in mass shootings, so America may have other issues to address before the risk of mass shootings drops from a daily threat to one more in line with the rest of the industrialized world.
Having accomplished this, I would then further suggest that it might be time to take a long, hard look at that 2nd Amendment, and consider whether or not it has a place in modern society and if so, whether that place might best be better defined with an eye to public safety as well as considering traditional American rights and values.
It’s your country, Americans. You get to decide how it works. Not the government; they answer to you. But only when you inform yourselves and take action, united and with the determination that it’s time for change and that, as Jefferson suggested, government and its cronies in banking and big business’ continual encroachment upon your rights and freedom are not irreversible.
Many of the steps required to reclaim your nation might even be considered illegal by the laws currently in place. To which I reply:
‘Who put those laws in place, and whose interests do they protect?’
The Constitution is the final arbiter of what can and cannot be done to maintain your rights and freedom. And it stands firmly on the side of the American citizenry.
And if something about it needs changing again?
That’s your right as a people as well.
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