Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

January 3, 2013

Another View

Leaving the Old West

Charlotte Shivvers

Knoxville —  

Some of us old timers remember the “Old West” – John Wayne to the rescue, shooting all the bad guys in sight.  We know that habit has ridden right into 2013 with us anytime we notice children’s video games or watch the movie previews.  We’re encouraged to shoot everyone in sight.  “Hi Ho, Silver, shoot ‘em dead” must still be the theme.

The myth of the old west reappears with each new massacre in our schools, theaters, or public squares.  And until another Newtown happens, we go back to sleep and forget how we behave as a nation.  Here’s a quick look at ourselves – by comparison.    Last year handguns killed

48 people in Japan

8 in Great Britain

58 in Israel, and

10,728 in the United States of America

Why are we so different?  We’re not basically more violent than other countries.  They also have untreated mentally ill people.  They also have angry wives and husbands tempted to kill each other.  The difference?  They don’t have three million guns at hand like we do!   One Connecticut mother is now dead because her mentally troubled son could easily take one of her guns, kill her, and go forth to murder 25 more.  

Many other countries have had mass killings, but most respond intelligently.  In Australia, after one rampage killed 35 people, they instituted protective gun measures like requiring a character witness for a would-be gun buyer.  Australians still enjoy hunting and self protection – but no more mass killings (firearm homicides dropped 59%).

Publicity after the Connecticut massacre tells us what we’re up against:  the NRA (National Rifle Assoc.) is not a simple association of gun owners.  No, it’s closely partnered with gun manufacturers (who supply money), and those companies in turn are often owned by equity funds controlled by Wall Street titans.  The 223 Bushmaster semiautomatic that was used for the mass murder in Newtown was manufactured by the Freedom Group, a gun arsenal controlled by Cerberus Capital Management.  So Wall Street won’t be joining gun safety advocates for a while. 

And the federal agency created to enforce federal firearms regulations?  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been without a full-time director for six years because the Senate won’t confirm the Presidential appointment. 

Bringing sanity to our Wild West mentality won’t be easy.  Gun lobbies outspent gun safety efforts 10 to 1 last year.  However, after Connecticut, several former NRA Congressmen in DC have switched to gun safety.  Gun safety advocate New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg leads on from our largest city.   Senator Diane Feinstein is ready with a bill that would provide a far more effective ban on military style assault weapons.  Joe Biden heads up the President’s Committee charged to act. 

Why so difficult?  No one wants to take away the right of competent, law-abiding people to own guns for hunting or fighting off burglars.  But couldn’t we limit the rapid fire weapons of the Connecticut massacre to the military?  And enforce uniform federal laws requiring background checks on every gun sale. 75 percent of NRA membership supports that.

Our Wild West mentality suggests another story – the Wizard of Oz.  Remember that Dorothy disempowered the Wizard when she discovered he was only a big voice hidden behind a huge, frightening shield?  Maybe that’s the power of the NRA. 

It’s up to us to tear down the shield and join with the people behind it – to move from our cowardly gun-driven past.