Our Present And Future With Guns.

According to Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center, only 22% of Americans are gun owners. Yet there are an estimated 300 million guns in the US, not including those owned by our military. More than 6 million Americans own 10 or more guns. 10 or more? Seriously? Let’s see…a small gauge shotgun for small birds, a large gauge shotgun for larger birds, a small caliber hunting rifle for small game, a large caliber hunting rifle for large game, a small caliber handgun for accuracy, a large caliber handgun for “stopping” power, a military-style assault weapon for potential government tyrants, a .50 caliber sniper rifle for assassinations and blowing holes in the occasional engine block, and…??? That’s only 8. What am I missing? I’m at a loss to explain what more a 2nd Amendment-spouting, freedom-protecting “patriot” could need to arm themselves for any eventuality.

Obviously, the US has a love affair with guns. But though we all face the consequences, that love affair is far from universal.

As previously stated, the majority of guns are in the hands of a few. If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, consider this: A large percentage of those 300 million guns are in the hands of the members of the 784 hate groups as recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, including KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, Skinheads, Black Separatists, Neo-Confederates, Anti-LGBT, Christian Identity and other assorted general hate groups and individuals, such as the Sovereign Citizen Movement. Shockingly, a not insignificant percentage of their members are ex-military, active-duty military, former law enforcement officers and border patrol…even active-duty law enforcement (which may help to explain the increase in police brutality against minority populations)!

These people seem to believe that guns are the answer to most every conflict – a view endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and modeled in many US-made movies, television programs and video games. But our choices of entertainment are, most certainly, not the root of our gun problem. In fact, the source of our problem is the NRA and the gun manufacturers it represents, which have flooded our communities with guns – guns that are becoming increasingly more lethal. Though other nations share our taste in entertainment and celebrate our culture, and though many other nations are less religious than the US, no other advanced country rivals the US when it comes to the number of gun deaths (including homicides)!

The glaring difference between the US and those other countries is the availability of guns.

For example, in a recent attempt to determine how easy it is to obtain guns in the US, a reporter for The Guardian found that it took just 2 hours for him to be offered an AK-47, an illegally-modified fully-automatic AR-15 and numerous handguns – some of which had been smuggled and some of which had been purchased legally. His experience is hardly unique. In many neighborhoods in many of our nation’s cities, you can purchase a gun within a few minutes, local gun laws be damned. For example, many of the guns used in crimes in Chicago are originally purchased legally in Indiana and cities along the I-35 corridor where gun laws are weak. They are then resold in Chicago to individuals wishing to avoid background checks. This pattern is supported by studies that show the majority of guns used in crimes are purchased illegally from unlicensed gun dealers or uncaring dealers in states with the greatest gun culture and the weakest gun laws.

And, thanks to the NRA’s stated belief that the best solution for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, there is a growing vigilante movement in the US exemplified by the armed woman who took it upon herself to shoot at shoplifters in the parking lot of The Home Depot in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Contrary to the gun lovers’ beliefs, such behavior is the worst nightmare of most law enforcement officials. After all, imagine you’re an officer responding to an active shooter situation and you see several armed people shooting at one another. Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? Are they all bad guys? You simply have to treat them all as threats.

And what about the legal implications of the “good guy” behavior? Disregarding the fact that few crimes are stopped by armed citizens and that armed citizens are more likely to be shot with their own guns than to stop a crime, such vigilante behavior poses problems. Police are supposed to be restricted from shooting at a suspect in a non-life-threatening situation. What about the armed “good guys?” Is it acceptable for a private citizen to shoot and kill a shoplifter? If the criminals are not armed and not threatening others, is it legally permissible to shoot to kill? If an unarmed shoplifter is subject to lethal force, is a bully engaged in a fistfight? How about a citizen engaged in a shouting match? An unarmed robber? An armed robber? Where do we draw the line?

The fact is, this nation is being held hostage by the gun lobby. We have allowed the NRA to write Conceal and Carry, Open Carry and “Stand Your Ground” laws that encourage people like George Zimmerman to shoot innocent, unarmed people. The NRA wants even more people to be armed. And it refuses to consider common sense gun safety laws. Despite a large majority of its members supporting more thorough, universal background checks, the NRA leadership has drawn a bright line in the sand. Any restriction on gun ownership is seen as a violation of the Constitution (if you choose to ignore the first phrase of the 2nd Amendment). Moreover, mass shootings are good for business as demonstrated by the gun shop owner in Roseburg, Oregon who stocked up on guns and ammo following the shooting at nearby Umpqua Community College. She knows that there is always a run on guns and ammo following mass shootings. Such greed aside, more guns are not the answer to gun violence. In fact, numerous studies have clearly shown that more guns equal more gun violence. Not less.

More important, the blatant lies of the NRA which pronounce guns the solution, not the problem, may well lead to a breakdown in our legal system. Vigilante “justice” could soon replace our courts. The entire US could resemble the Old West – only with more shootings and less shame.

Time To Rethink The Language Of Hate.

Following the murder of two Las Vegas cops and a “good guy with a gun,” it’s time to take a long look at those who are fomenting anti-government hate. The shooters, Jerad and Amanda Miller, had apparently been inspired by Cliven Bundy, as well as various militias and “patriot” groups. They believed the police officers to be Nazis and talked of a revolution against our government.

Far from being alone, the Millers are part of a growing segment of our population who have a perverse understanding of our Constitution, and who consider our government illegitimate. Since the election of President Obama, the non-partisan Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has noted a significant rise in such hate groups. A spokesman said that the SPLC’s Hatewatch had listed 139 hate groups in 2008, but over the last 5 years, the number has grown to more than a thousand.

Interestingly, these groups only seem to thrive during Democratic administrations.

The growth of hate groups is almost certainly the result of the constant anti-government, anti-Democrat hatred being spewed by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and many others. It’s even worse these days with the impact of social media and the Tea Party. Even so-called “traditional” Republicans and “Christian” churches must be held responsible for their words. These people have questioned the legitimacy of a president twice elected with large majorities. Instead of respecting the results of the elections, they have implied that there was widespread voter fraud. They have demonized gays, lesbians, Latinos, African-Americans, the unemployed and the poor.

They have called Obama the “Imperial President” simply for acting on his campaign promises. They called him a Nazi, a Socialist and a Communist (it’s clear they don’t understand the definitions of any of those terms) for signing into law a version of Romneycare. They have celebrated mockumentaries created by James O’Keefe that purported to show progressive groups participating in illicit activities. They have invented conspiracies and scandals over events similar to those they supported or ignored during Republican administrations. They rant about the growth of government even though cutbacks at every level of government have acted as an anchor on our economy since the start of the Great Recession.

The hatemongers have generated such a large following that it now threatens to explode in a new wave of violence.

Rather than being outliers such as Timothy McVeigh, the hate-spewing extremists have taken over one of our two dominant political parties. The haters have members of Congress, presidential candidates, militias led by retired peace officers, Tea Party groups calling for Second Amendment remedies, a cable “news” network making up lies and supporting seditionists, churches screaming hate-filled tirades at minorities, and bullies openly carrying AK-47s, AR-15s and shotguns into restaurants and large retail stores.

Thankfully, the SPLC has finally convinced the Justice Department to reinstate its domestic terrorism unit that was disbanded following 9/11. After all, terrorism is no less lethal if it comes from within. In many ways, domestic terrorism is more destructive than that imposed on us by foreign groups. It makes us distrust and fear each other. Our political system was founded on the debate of ideas; of the party in power being challenged by the loyal opposition. But if we don’t de-escalate the rhetoric that inspires people like the Millers, this isn’t going to end well.

An Act Of Sedition.

After watching videos of the armed confrontation between Cliven Bundy and federal agents executing a legal court order, I realized that I was watching more than a political demonstration or civil disobenience. When Bundy’s crowd of armed milita threatened government officials by drawing their weapons and taking aim from sniper positions, they crossed a very clear line into the realm of sedition. Incredibly, they were supported by Nevada Governor Sandoval, U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar and dozens of state legislators from Arizona and Nevada.

Look up the definition of sedition yourself.

To save you the trouble, 18 U.S. Code 2384 reads, “If two or more persons…conspire to oppose by force the authority…or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States…they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.” Not only were the actions of Bundy and his friends in violation of that code, so, too, were the actions of the conservative media hosts and politicians who applauded and encouraged them.

Imagine if a group of drug dealers challenged federal authority to interrupt a smuggling operation. Imagine if a city neighborhood took up arms to prevent the arrest of a suspected murderer. Would anyone support and encourage them? If not, where do we draw the line?

I’d suggest that the line is crossed when someone, anyone, takes aim at government officials or incites someone else to do so.