Sunday, January 20, 2013

Staying safe on Gun Appreciation Day

Did you have fun yesterday on "Gun Appreciation Day"? Good. Luckily, only five people where accidentally shot at gun shows yesterday:
• In Indianapolis, a man shot himself when his gun went off outside a gun show. ...

• In Raleigh, N.C., three people were injured when a shotgun went off at a gun show there. ...

• In Ohio, a dealer at a gun show accidentally fired a gun, injuring one.

None of those people died, so you might be tempted to laugh at this. But I'm sure it wasn't a laughing matter to them, even if they were all adults who'd chosen to be there.

And if you're still tempted to laugh, watch this:

Not laughing now, are you?

Yeah, that's just an anecdote (from December), like the one I posted yesterday, and accidents will happen. But that's kind of the whole point. Guns were invented for one purpose, to kill people. They're used in other ways, too, now - hunting and target practice - but they remain very good at what they were invented to do.

And it's hard to wrap your head around 32,000 gun deaths per year (100,000 people shot), just in the United States. Not all of those people were seven-year-olds, not at all. Some even deserved to be shot. But many others didn't. And these were real people, people like Craig Allen Loughrey, many of them, not just statistics.

Note that it wasn't until 2008 that the Supreme Court decided the Second Amendment applied to the individual right to own guns, and even then, it was that same 5 to 4 split decision, with right-wing Republicans in the majority, which has given us such terrible decisions as Citizens United (and such terrible presidents as George W. Bush).

In recent decades, thanks to the political dominance their 'Southern strategy' gave the GOP, the right-wing has driven not just policy, but the entire concept of who we are as a people. Even Democrats tend to adopt their rhetoric and their assumptions. (Certainly, Democrats learned to run like hell away from gun control!)

Well, as the Republican Party absorbed all those old Dixiecrats and started moving to the extreme right, abandoning the political center, Democrats also moved to the right. Politics, after all, abhors a vacuum.

It's easy to forget that this wasn't always so. It's easy to forget the "well regulated militia" part of the Second Amendment, and America's long history of interpreting that differently than Republicans (and even President Obama) do today.

And, of course, it doesn't matter anyway - not when it comes to reasonable gun control measures. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech - in a lot clearer language than the Second - yet we have all sorts of laws affecting speech, including fraud, libel, incitement to riot, treason, selling trade secrets, causing panic, etc.

And no one, as far as I know, is suggesting that gun ownership be prohibited. Look at Barack Obama's moderate, common-sense proposals. Are they really reason for hysteria?

Even registered Republicans don't think so, not the vast majority of them (when asked about the specific policies themselves, rather than about the president). Support among Republicans for such policies is barely less than support among Democrats - and overwhelmingly in favor, in either case.

But the gun nuts in the NRA are having hysterics. And Republican Party leaders, from Fox 'News' on down, encourage such things for political advantage. After all, if Barack Obama is for it, they're going to oppose it, no matter what it is. (Yeah, I'm still shaking my head at the uproar over Obama passing a Republican health care plan.)

Well, a lot of the hysteria has to do with the right-wing seeing their political dominance coming to an end. They rode that Southern strategy - deliberately wooing white racists, after the Democrats took a stand against racial segregation - to national dominance, reaching a peak during the George W. Bush years, when they controlled all three branches of the federal government.

But young people aren't as bigoted as their elders, and racial minorities are starting to vote in record numbers. That racism drove many people away from the GOP, and their increasing fanaticism is driving away even more, even among conservatives. Oddly, when you deliberately fill your political party with crazies, you tend to alienate sane people. Funny, isn't it?

Increasingly, the Republican Party appeals mostly to bitter old white men (and not even to all of us - heh, heh). And when you've placed your bet on racists, misogynists, and religious nuts, it's hard to change - even if you want to (and I see no sign of that). Of course, they've still got the wealthy. They've still got the billionaires, so that makes up for a lot. But not everything.

I still think we've reached the bottom, here in America, but it's going to be a long, hard fight to climb up again. In the past four years, we've barely begun to repair what the right-wing has done to us.

And since the damage hasn't stopped - Republicans still control the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court, they've left us deeply in debt, and global warming has probably reached the point of no return, among other problems - it's not going to be a steady climb, either.

Neither steady nor quick nor easy. And there will be a lot of people trying everything they can to drag us back down again. Witness "Gun Appreciation Day," for example.

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