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The Choice Between Rugged Individualism and Senseless Violence
The vision of a population working toward a better society and communal sensibilities was, at one time, an attainable goal for this country, but a movement in early 2009 brought that noble vision to a screeching halt with the election of the first African American man as President. Instead of a population working to create a society where all Americans enjoyed the equal opportunities and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, the country was divided between those seeking rugged individualism and government by guns, and those still clinging to an ideology that as a nation, we work together for the common good of the country. This alarming drift by conservatives to return to the 1800s where justice is meted out by “armed and dangerous” citizens under cover of the legal system should both embarrass and frighten the population of the most technologically advanced country in the world. Unfortunately, half the population yearns for Wild West sensibilities with full support of Republicans, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and financial backing of the National Rifle Association’s supporters anxiously awaiting a signal to employ “2nd Amendment remedies” to bring Congress and the government under their control to return to pre-Civil war America.
The catastrophic massacre of innocent theatre goers in Colorado should be a wake-up call to all Americans that the proliferation of fire-arms nearly guarantees the senseless tragedy will be repeated again until Americans stand up and demand legislators address the issue of gun control. It is true that these atrocities cannot be prevented with legislation, but they can be minimized if the citizens of this country lose their belief that being an American means having the resources to kill each other over real or imagined sleights. It also requires that certain groups empowered by ultra-conservative legislators be held accountable for attempting to impose their will on Americans who feel their only protection is at the end of a gun barrel.
Shortly after the news of the Colorado tragedy emerged, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg assailed President Obama and Willard Romney for not addressing the issue of gun control. Bloomberg’s questions were prescient to the situation, but any talk of gun control is political suicide. For example, the NRA has a campaign asserting that “the Obama administration and its anti-gun allies have been engaged in a silent but sophisticated long-term conspiracy to excise the Second Amendment from our Bill of Rights by 2016.” It is identical to the NRA’s 2008 campaign and it resulted in an explosion of gun sales and eventually, teabaggers carrying signs reading “we came unarmed this time” at rallies during the health care reform debate.
At gun ranges around the country, NRA flyers decrying the President’s secret plan to strip Americans of their right to bear arms accompanies inflammatory rhetoric from Willard Romney’s supporter and aging rocker Ted Nugent. Before Romney advocated for more guns, he supported bans on assault weapons he claimed were “only good for stalking and killing human beings.” Nugent excused Romney’s Massachusetts gun-control record because, as he put it, “Massachusetts is not in America.” Romney gave a statement of condolence after the Colorado massacre, but it belies his seeking the NRA and Nugent’s endorsement for his candidacy. This is the same Ted Nugent who said President Obama should “suck on my machine gun,” and that Hillary Clinton should ride his “machine gun.” However, it makes sense Romney sought out Nugent and the NRA’s endorsement because his cult’s adherents are encouraged to keep arms and ammunition for the “end times” to defend and protect their hoard of food from intruders.
There is a burden on politicians to start a conversation on gun control, but it is the American people’s responsibility to demand their representatives take action. However, the people have shifted their opinion on sane gun laws over the past four years. From 1993 through 2008, a majority of Americans prioritized gun control over gun rights, with a particular increase in support for gun control after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. A few months after that incident, 62% of Americans said controlling gun ownership was more important than protecting gun rights, but after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, only 60% said gun control was more important. Today it is evenly divided between sensible gun laws and the Wild West. The issue has not been helped by ALEC’s “stand your ground” campaign that led to the stalking and murder of Trayvon Martin, or the notion of rugged individualism and anti-government rhetoric from conservatives that exacerbates the situation immensely.
It is a sad commentary when American individualism is defined by guns that embolden people to kill, prepare for a race war, or rebel against the government so-called patriots are convinced is imposing unconstitutional laws such as the Affordable Care Act, banking reform, or clean-water regulations. It is unclear why half the population thinks a nation of gun-toting citizens will ensure a safe society, but within hours of the Colorado massacre the internet was rife with comments that if every person in the theatre carried concealed weapons, the shooter would not have taken so many lives. Never mind the man released two tear gas canisters and was wearing a bullet-proof vest, or that in the fog of the tragedy and tear gas there would be stray bullets flying from all directions, and yet that is the mindset of gun advocates and their instigators; the NRA and ALEC.
America will continue to be dangerous and a violent society as long as Americans feel the need to arm themselves. The violence inherent in gangs is the result of a lack of good jobs and secure future, and the people’s need to protect themselves stems from religious fanatics and bigots intent on imposing their will on the entire population. The constant drumbeat of “loss of liberty” by conservatives and Republicans contributes to the discontent among racists, religious extremists, and so-called patriots frightened that an African American President is robbing them of their dog-given constitutional rights, and they are inciting an ever-growing segment of the population to prepare to wage war against the government for executing legislation conservatives disagree with.
However, the real problem is the American people who adhere to the notion that might makes right and without a side-arm or assault rifle, they are not “real Americans.” In fact, mentioning gun control elicits outrage from all walks of life and this article is not a call to disarm; it is a call to sanity and reason, because without some serious discourse on the conditions driving people to support the proliferation of guns, there will be a race war, more massacres, and eventually, the civil war Ted Nugent and his ilk dream about.
Yesterday, Sarah Jones asked, “can we talk about gun control and personal responsibility yet?” The answer is probably not; because until there is a conversation about the mindset that makes carrying a gun necessary to be an American, and why there is a need for self-defense, going to a theatre, high school, or a political rally will remain as hazardous as a firefight in Afghanistan, and a conversation about gun control will be political suicide.