To keep and bear arms

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed

This week the media covered the fatal police shootings of two more young black men; one shooting was questionable, one appears to have been murder. Both were unnecessary. And the latest story is about a sniper attack in Dallas that left five white police officers dead, apparently motivated by frustration and anger, and based on race. Immediately the NRA and Republicans launched scathing criticism at Democrats in general and Barrack Obama specifically for “politicizing” the issue of increased restrictions on access to firearms. This issue is and always has been a political one, made so by the NRA and Republican supporters who are either equally irrational and fanatic, or simply in thrall to contributions and voter arousal.

The CDC is specifically precluded from spending any money on researching gun violence in America, and there seems to be no centralized tracking of gun violence, even shootings involving police officers. But more than 30,000 Americans die of bullet wounds every year, more than ten times the number of people killed by terrorists on 9/11. We are bombarded more and more frequently by horror stories like San Bernardino and Orlando, by too frequent police shootings of young black men, the list goes on and on. And still the NRA blocks effective action.

We allow dangerously powerful cars on public roads; Mustang GT 350s and 500s, Corvette Z06s, all the way up to Bugatti Veyrons; cost alone limits their frequency on public byways, but for anyone with adequate cash or financing and no training in driving them, those cars are available. They can all break any speed limit in second gear, some in first gear. They are the automotive equivalent of “civilian” versions of assault weapons, those military weapons that are semi- rather than full-automatic, and with limited magazine capacity. When the NRA calls for not limiting magazine capacities on firearms like the AK47 and M16 (AR15 in its civilian configuration), that is the equivalent of calling for Indy and Formula I cars on public roads; those cars are purpose built for limited use, just as assault weapons are designed for one thing; killing people as quickly and efficiently as possible. Fish and game agencies generally limit magazine capacity on firearms used for hunting game, but the NRA wants no such restrictions when it comes to hunting people.

When Lee Harvey Oswald killed John Kennedy in 1963 he used a mail-order Italian carbine (I won’t debate the conspiracy theorists here, that’s a separate issue), but the NRA opposed the legislation that put an end to mail order guns. The NRA position would have made it easy for an 11-year-old to save up his (or her) allowance and send off a money order to buy a gun to take to school. The NRA opposes expanded background checks that would make it much more difficult for those with histories of mental instability to purchase guns legally and conveniently. The NRA also opposes prohibiting gun sales to individuals on the “no fly” terrorist watch list, and blocks efforts to stop wide open gun sales at gun shows. The NRA constantly calls for lifting restrictions on carrying weapons in public, either concealed or in plain sight, claiming that if more citizens were armed, violent criminals would be stopped. When I hear that idiotic position I’m reminded of an incident that happened on November 29, 2009, in Lakewood, Washington; four police officers were sitting in a restaurant, working at laptops before starting their shift. They were all shot and killed by one individual. These were trained and armed police officers, all wearing bullet proof vests. One officer did manage to draw his weapon from the holster and return fire, hitting the assailant in the abdomen. The other three officers never returned fire. Again, these were four trained, armed police officers, collectively with more than 50 years of police experience. They were caught completely off guard. How would any rational person think private citizens, without any training, would be more effective?

It’s past time we acted to stop this gun violence; maybe the life you save will be your own, driving to work or sitting at your desk, or that of your child whose classmate gets access to an adult family member’s gun and brings it to school, and fires it accidentally. Maybe the life you save will be your minister/priest/rabbi/mullah, holding a quiet study session when an insane racist breaks in and opens fire. Maybe the life you save will be a niece or nephew, enjoying a night at a local club, gay or straight, cowboy or goth. Maybe the life you save will be a complete stranger – and that’s no less worth saving.

When I see all the absurd positions advocated by the NRA and other like-minded nitwits, I have to think…. what part of “well regulated” are you just too fucking stupid to understand?