Sunday, April 5, 2009

Guns: What Are They Good For?

There's an unsettling trend developing that needs some thoughtful and reasoned analysis. Guns sales, and gun violence, are on the rise.

Before you click off of this post or launch into an NRA-inspired "From my cold, dead hands!" oration using your best Charlton Heston voice, allow me to point out a couple of things.

I grew up in the mountains of central Pennsylvania as both a hunter and competition shooter. I'm a military veteran and former military police officer. I've owned rifles, shotguns, and handguns for most of my life, and even though I don't hunt anymore, I still possess firearms.

I voted for Obama.

The folks who did not vote for Obama spent a lot of time before the election whipping up fear and hatred, painting candidate-Obama as a terrorist Muslim who wasn't born in this country.

Hours and hours of video were shot and posted of McCain / Palin rallies where this behavior and ignorance were shown. This was not liberal media bias, commie-pinko New York Times slanted reporting. This was a recorded portrayal of actual events, hate and racism and intolerance in the words of anti-Obama supporters.

Post-election, mainstream media ran story after story about the rise in gun sales, born out of baseless fear among the losers that Obama was going to "take their guns away" and therefore they would load up and hunker down, prepared to defend their homestead as they munched on canned peaches.
Firearms sales have skyrocketed.

So has gun violence. Are they related?

The graph pictured here (click it to make it larger) is from the New York Times, and it's a stunning visual reminder of how certain groups respond when they perceive a loss in power or status. Violence is the most basic response mechanism. Fight, or flight.

And we've also read and seen terrible stories of mass shootings. Thirteen dead in an immigration center in Binghamton, NY. Three Pittsburgh police officers gunned down responding to a domestic dispute. Bullet proof vests being worn by the assailants.

This comes on the heels of increasing vitriolic posturing by the Glenn Becks and Michele Bachmanns of the world, calling for revolution and resistance to the policies and priorities of the Obama administration, a government currently enjoying approval ratings north of 60%.

This fear-mongering and instigating is meant to do one thing, and one thing only - incite antisocial behavior and increase ratings.

As we witnessed during the Bush administration, with Dick Cheney and the merchants of fear, the illusion of protecting the American people was used to justify all kinds of illegal and inappropriate activity that typically involved the use of military might to force our views on the world. You're either with us, or against us, so toe the line or we'll shoot a Paveway bomb up your ass.

Someone needs to look at the root cause, not the symptom. Gun sales are the result of something, not the starting point. We can start with the right-wing talk show hosts and wack-a-doodle politicians, requiring them to tone down their rhetoric and preach calm and restraint during this difficult time.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself. And bullets.

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