Monday, September 20, 2004

The Gun Thang...

No one can dispute that America and Americans love guns. Not all Americans, of course. Some seem to understand what the proliferation of privately owned firearms has done to American culture. The massive insecurity that it creates, in the streets, inspires yet more gun ownership. Which inspires more fear and, so it seems, more guns.

I grew up in a gun-loving home and had quite a collection myself. By age 16 my private collection would shock the sensibilities of most Canadians. I mean, what 16 yr old boy really needs access to a military riot gun and an M1 carbine plus a dozen other assorted rifles and shot guns? Times have changed but there was nothing illegal or really odd about it, at the time.

Indeed, I used to love my guns. Dad was a police officer and a serious competitive shooter. I virtually lived on police ranges and by fifteen, the only cop I knew, who could out shoot me, consistently, was my dad. Being lousy at sports, I was a huge disappointment to my dad. The shooting was our only real father/son link.

Dad was proud of my abilities until I turned 16 and beat him. That was the last time my father and I went to the range together. You see, guns have a way of becoming part of a persons’ identity and for a grown policeman to be out shot by a kid was simply too much to bear. It was the absolute end to any positive connection between my father and I. There are a couple of important lessons implied by that scenario. Some personal, some with larger implications.

Lethal weapons have a strong effect on the human psyche. They feel powerful when you hold them. To some, it is transforming. Regardless of gender, that feel of lethal power, held in your hand, is very attractive.

That is a pretty sweeping statement to make but I have witnessed, up close, the subtle changes that come over a persons’ face, voice, and eyes, when handed a weapon. It is almost universal. As universal as fear and insecurity. It is easy to believe that the gun and the feeling of personal empowerment it extends is an antidote to fear and insecurity.

Gun control is a short phrase that sets many teeth on edge. Even in jolly old Canada. The phrase seems to mean something different to everyone. Rather than leap into that turbulent and confusing pool, I will only talk about assault weapons. Specifically the assault weapons ban that President Bush and a Republican dominated Congress recently allowed to lapse.

This was a purely political move, of course. The pro-gun lobby in the US is very powerful and represents a lot of votes, especially among those of conservative leanings. Both the very far right wingnuts and the hard right of the Republican Party are passionate in their opposition to any kind of gun control.

The Republican propaganda machine hails Bush as the man who can make the hard decisions. Once again the carefully manicured image does not fit the reality of the man or his actions. Allowing the assault weapons ban to lapse was not a hard decision. It was the cheap and easy course for a man whose only concern for America is not alienating important conservative lobby groups. The NRA is important to Bush. You are not.

Looking at America, from a country whose people do not carry firearms on the street, the idea of individuals needing military assault weapons is just plain nutty. Stupid and undeniably dangerous to the entire society.

One high profile group that has not failed to criticize the Presidents’ lame actions are The American Police Chiefs. This bit of Republican ideology becomes reality on the streets. It is the police officer, not the political elite of Washington, who deals with that reality.

You may recall the two bank robbers who held practically the entire LA Police Department at bay, while shooting up a busy neighborhood and seriously wounding a number of police officers, a couple of years ago. You probably don't know that none of the police wounded that day are still active police officers. The wounds, made by the powerful assault rifles used by the robbers, were life altering.

The rounds fired by military type assault weapons are powerful. They go through trees, cars, body armor, and houses. Not just a wall. Right through a house and anything in it. The news shows you the event but it doesn’t show you the aftermath. It isn’t like the movies. There are no happy endings.

But George Bush, the man who claims to make the hard decisions, made the easy decision, once again. Once again, ordinary Americans pay the real cost.

The NRA is important to George Bush. You are not.


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