How Long Will We Let the National Rifle Association and Corrupt Politicians Kill Our Children?





7-23-12

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan.  His latest book, "Engaging the Muslim World," is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. He runs the Informed Comment website, from where this article is cross-posted.


An FAR-15 rifle, with a collapsible stock, ten-round magazine, and flash suppressor. It is legal for civilians to purchase this weapon in the United States. Credit: Wikipedia

Police in Aurora, Colorado say that they do not think that James Holmes had an accomplice.

Of course he had an accomplice. He had lots of them. He had much of the gun lobby and much of the U.S. Congress as accomplices.

Police are said to be puzzled how Holmes got off so many rounds so fast -- killing 12 people and wounding dozens in only two minutes.

Holmes used an AR-15 military style semi-automatic assault rifle with a special ammunition drum attached that held 100 rounds of ammunition. It is made by Colt’s Manufacturing Company. It was originally made for the U.S. military by Colt’s military division, and only later introduced to the civilian market. Nutty proponents of these weapons maintain that they are incorrectly called “assault weapons” and that this phrase should be reserved for fully automatic weapons like machine guns. They should please tell the people in that theater in Aurora that Holmes did not have an assault weapon, and explain how he could have shot so many so fast with an ordinary hunting rifle.

So why can crazy people buy military-style assault weapons in the United States? Why can drug gangs stockpile these weapons? Why do America’s streets, malls, theaters and campuses turn so easily into shooting ranges with mass casualties?

I just saw Joe Johns on CNN tell Wolf Blitzer that Holmes “purchased the guns” used “legally,” and that given that Holmes had no criminal record, this is “seemingly a situation very difficult to legislate against, if you will.” He added, “Bad people do bad things.”

Joe Johns and Wolf Blitzer are either cowards on this issue or on the take. CNN just played the typical corporate blame game of ensuring that individuals take the rap for corporate misbehavior. Pollution is a matter of individual personal responsibility, not the coal industry. Global warming is caused by you and me, not by Big Oil.

Likewise, President Barack Obama called what happened a “tragedy,” as though it were a tornado instead of purposeful action by a human being who was turned into a one-man SWAT team by what is available in gun shops. And Mitt Romney said he loves America. In other words, move along. Nothing to see here.

Of course legislation could be passed banning assault weapons and their drum ammunition attachments.

In fact, there was a federal ban on assault weapons, from 1994 to 2004, passed by Congress and signed by Bill Clinton. Unfortunately it could only be passed through putting in a sunset provision that it was in effect for ten years and would have to be renewed. Presumably the sunset provision gave the opponents of the bill hope, and dissuaded them from trying to block it, and gave cover to the congressional representatives who took money from the gun lobby.

Without an assault weapon, Holmes would not have been able to kill and wound so many people so quickly.

Then House Speaker Tom DeLay and his Republican majority (along with a few pusillanimous Democrats) made sure that the assault weapons ban was not renewed in 2004, and he was backed in this atrocity by the National Rifle Association. NRA-backed Republicans and some Democrats have kept it off the legislative agenda ever since. Although some NRA leaders have sometimes said they would no longer oppose an assault weapons ban, these statements are likely merely for public consumption. We know who killed the ban in 2004. The question is what the lobbyists say privately when they meet with congressmen to bribe or threaten them.

What is worse, having these powerful weapons freely available is an excuse to further militarize local law enforcement and to “up” “security” in public spaces. Tolerating criminal weaponry means we have to get rid of the Bill of Rights. You can’t have freedom of assembly if the assembly has assault weapons. Police have to be as well or better armed than the gun nuts. And so peaceful protesters get attacked by police in assault gear, as though they were Marines landing in Tripoli.

Look, folks, with Citizens United and other rulings of the Supreme Court, it is clear that the United States has formally become a plutocracy, and with the failure of all campaign finance reform laws, we are stuck with our so-called representatives actually being paid agents for a handful of big corporations.

The only way to get an assault weapons ban is to embarrass the people who aid in flooding our country with these dangerous arms. You don’t hunt deer with them. They have no legitimate civilian use. Nobody would suffer from their unavailability but drug gangs and homicidal maniacs.

Colt’s Manufacturing Company, which makes the AR-15, should be asked in public letters from survivors and relatives of the dead victims, which included little children, if they will voluntarily stop selling the AR-15 in the civilian U.S. market. Congressmen blocking the assault weapons ban should be identified and monitored on web pages. Victims of these weapons need to organize, the way Mothers against Drunk Driving did. The Occupy Wall Street crowd, which suffers from the militarization of law enforcement, should give some thought as to how to embarrass the enablers as well.

We should borrow some techniques from the anti-abortion lobby and put up graphic pictures of the victims, the little children with bullet holes in them.

We are back to the medieval era, folks, when powerful barons did as they pleased with the peasants. We have to put up with mentally ill people like Holmes having free access to assault weapons because Lord Colt and Lord DeLay and various dukes and counts derive a profit from these weapons. They are getting rich off the dead children. Only if the peasants get restive will they stop being serfs and get any rights.

I was warned by a friend not to write this entry. I have friends and relatives who have been threatened or suffered vandalism by NRA supporters for speaking out or even just for a bumper sticker on a car. But I’m almost 60, I’ve had a full life, and I am getting crotchety. Some things need to be said.


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