Mayfield: Just don’t understand the gun fanatics
April 17, 2009
I mean, really, what’s the use?
I suppose I should begin this column by announcing that it will be my annual plea for a reasonable gun control policy in these United States. This way all those who find such appeals infuriating and downright un-American can immediately fire up their e-mails and begin their all too familiar screeds on my indefatigable ignorance as regards the Constitution, the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights and the absolutely, undeniable, irrefutable, intentions of the Founding Fathers.
Each year, in a combination that bears traits of both Sisyphus and Don Quixote, I wonder aloud why we as a nation cling so tenaciously to the triggers of AK-47s and Saturday-night specials if all we really want to do is tromp out into the forest for a few days of male-bonding and Bambi-blasting. Why is it, I ask again, that even the merest hint of establishing some kind of reasonable control over the proliferation of weapons that have absolutely nothing to do with sport and precious little with self-protection will result in a barrage of letters questioning my sanity, proclaiming my senility and denying my patriotism? And although some of these epistles are written in the electronic version of crayon, others are very carefully crafted. Indeed, it appears there must certainly be a systematic effort on the part of a very well-financed and very influential lobbying organization whose initials I won’t mention except to say they begin with N and end with A and the rifle in the middle gave up hunting long ago, to root out any columnist in America for excoriation ” be they big-name and extremely popular writers from the New York Times or small-town opinionators like you know who.
So again I ask: What’s the use? We seem to be so entrenched in our positions that any kind of compromise creating a policy on gun ownership that mimics other modern nations is simply out of the question. When NRA members like Democratic Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma say “I can tell you, that assault-weapons ban is just an excuse to take away a sportsman’s shotguns,” you know any change in our national policy is many years away.
What’s the use? On this past Good Friday in Pittsburgh, a white supremacist, armed with legally acquired assault weaponry, gunned down three policemen ” a slaughter that merited a night or two of news coverage and nothing more. That may be because only the day before another madman murdered 13 people in upstate New York while, on the day of the Pittsburgh massacre, a fellow arms man shot his five children to death. This was followed only days later by the handgun murder of four other innocents in Alabama. The city of Oakland, California is still reeling from last month’s gun battle that left four police officers dead in the street. Tens of thousands of Americans, innocent and not, have been cut down by weaponry ” legal or not ” in the last decade, and still the resistance to the merest of reasonable restrictions remains resolute.
What’s the use? When you read that 90 percent of the guns confiscated from the warring Mexican drug cartels can be traced back to gun shops in America, what else can you say? Or when you discover that dealers selling multiple AK-47s to a purchaser, guns solely devised for the killing of as many people as possible, are not required to report such sales to any branch of government, who can’t help but despair over what clearly seems to be a system gone mad?
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Nearly all of this craziness can be attributed to the unremitting work of the NRA, an organization that was initially designed as a support for the hunting community but has now fallen under the control of zealots immune to any plea for dialogue. Even as our nation stumbles toward the chaos of Old West street justice, the fanatics in the NRA wield their considerable electoral power demanding and receiving acquiescence from too many of our national leaders fearful of losing the perks of power.
During his campaign, President Obama promised to get tough on the absurd proliferation of assault weapons. So far he has not, and the tide of gun terror continues to rise. Given the enormous problems facing our nation, it is understandable that only so much can be done at once, but some of us are asking whether fixing the economy, solving the Palestinian problem or gaining peace in Iraq will ultimately matter if America continues to be held hostage by Second Amendment extremists whose fanaticism is causing many of us to wonder … What’s the use?
Rich Mayfield is the author of “Reconstructing Christianity: Notes from the New Reformation.” E-mail comments about this column to email@example.com.