“Today’s School Shooting is Brought to You by…”

“Today’s School Shooting is brought to you by…”

The United States has a lot of problems, almost all of them recently exposed again in the MidEast, in income inequity, in education. And each of these problems is worthy of study and columns and columns of commentary and suggestions for improvement.

Despite the shock waves of counter-terrorism in Iraq, despite John McCain’s calls for a return to 2003 and its war personnel, despite continuing reportage and ignoring of climate perversities, of oil and mining companies ignoring their responsibilities – we want to return for a few moments to another matter of lives and deaths.

We would swear that earlier this week, as the CBS Evening news began, we heard Scott Pelley say, “Today’s school shooting is…”

This caught our attention because earlier, on our own screen, we had watched as a local program began its news coverage with a Google Map zooming into a spot in mid-Oregon to point out the scene of recent violence in a school where (ONLY!) one student was killed and one teacher injured.

Out of the corner of our eye, and in the corner of our mind, we had made a miserably bad joke. We intoned over the news feed, “Today’s school shooting is brought to you by General Motors.”

We have become so used to daily bulletins telling us about the deaths and injuries of school children in the country, as the result of someone theoretically a victim of mental instability, that these formally horrific scenes on the nightly news are now just part of our national daily fabric. In the US of A, we have people who manage to persuade themselves that they are doing something valuable by creeping into a school and shooting whatever and whomever moves. Even more eerie is that these incidents are carried out, usually, by people who have legally purchased their firearms and ammunition.

It seems well-documented that ninety per cent of the voting adults in this country favor some sort of gun registry and, presumably therefore, control. Members of the NRA support this position. Many members of Congress do, as well. And of course, the President does.

But as the world knows, the gun issue in this country is not controlled by voters but rather by the NRA and gun manufacturers who have frightened legislators state by state, and in Congress, by promising to campaign against those who favor gun sanity. The NRA’s response to violence in the streets, daytime and nighttime, has always been, “It’s not the gun, it’s the person carrying it.” Which is to say, at this time in our history we are the captives of thousands of mentally ill gun-owning men and women.

It occurs to us that with more than 300 million guns in private hands in the country, nearly one for each man, woman, and child, our country’s mental health must be the worst in the world. At least that’s what the NRA would have us believe. Every sensible regulation of gun ownership is a threat to the NRA which, for unknown reasons, cannot seem to understand that the Supreme Court has, years ago now, guaranteed the right of citizens to own handguns, rifles, hunting equipment. Those rights are NOT in jeopardy, but the NRA rules by fear-mongering, and therefore, after each violent outburst, they send up the flagpole the usual disclaimer: “it’s not the gun, it’s the shooter.”

Mr. Obama, frustrated and unable to break the NRA’s strangle hold on Americans’ gun-toting throats, asked aloud this week, “You know, the United States does not have a monopoly on crazy people. It’s not the only country that has psychosis. And yet, we kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than any place else. Well, what’s the difference?”

The tragic fact is that we needn’t even answer that question any longer. We’ve found our scapegoats, the mentally unrehabilitated. And in truth, the more horrifying events have been instigated by mentally ill personalities. But not everyone who has access to a gun is mentally ill, unless we define mental illness as the desire for fame and notoriety.

Surely it’s clear by now that the mere existence of millions of firearms is the cause, not the result, of frightened people persuaded that life would be unlivable without firearms.

Chances are as we progress year by year reporting violence and death on our citizenry from mentally deficient people, mental health is unlikely to improve. What gun owner wants to admit he or she is psychotic?

One hopeful note amongst all this continuous chaos and carnage. The defeat in Virginia this week of Eric Cantor.

If the people who voted him out of his position in Congress realize their own power – i.e., the power of the people to make changes without waiting any longer for others to do so – is it not possible that others around the country will have the same realization and actually, on their own, organize and finance their own anti-gun legislation – and see it passed. If the NRA can frighten congressmen and women from acting as they know they should, isn’t the greater threat the simple act of voting against them by their very own publics?

Watch this space.

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