Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Crazy for guns

"I imagine it appears that I brutally killed both of my loved ones. I was only trying to do a quick thorough job [...] If my life insurance policy is valid please pay off my debts [...] donate the rest anonymously to a mental health foundation. Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type."

Infamous last writings haunt Texans years after Charles Whitman opened fired on the University of Texas. The ramblings of a sick man closed with a plea for the type of help that we have denied the mentally ill in the decades that have elapsed since 1966.

A quarter of a century later, we nearly lost yet another president to violence provoked by a broken mind. Even then, we were content to sweep John Hinckley, Jr. under a very messy rug that is now stained with the blood of 26 innocents in Connecticut. This makes me wonder if we are thinking in our right mind. If the answer is mental health services, I wonder why the NRA would not be the first to lobby for greater funding for mental health services. I do not wonder for very long because the NRA is not necessarily a hotbed of big government moderates, or liberals. Besides, it is more compelling for these one-issue voters to see the late Charlton Heston challenge the government to take his gun from his cold, lifeless hands.

If we are to take guns away from anybody, as many gun advocates fear, it should be from the hands of those whose thinking does not permit them to own tools of destruction, let alone make sound decisions for themselves.

Perhaps insanity is something we dare not address because we are all crazy to some extent. Why else would we close our eyes to the true cause of massacres while we wade into the same constitutional battles that end with the same gridlock – of course, until the next outrage whips up renewed frenzy and then unconsummated ideas.

It is a fool’s errand for us to believe that a superman will emerge to save us from our guns or from the unstable folks among us who brandish them. Presidents may speak grandiosely of what they want done, but we forget the failed efforts that attempted to put a traumatized nation on track for less bloody times. It was no less than the year of assassination that a seemingly-powerful president attempted to pass legislation that limited access to the kind of weapons that we both embrace and reject. The final product was a watered down law that pleased the gun lobby but betrayed the memory of men like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy whose lives were ended with gunfire.

If the killings and the attempted killings of our leaders is not enough impetus to act, I am tempted to view promises to honor the dead of Newtown with a cynical eye because a bizarre tautology exists behind the opposition to stricter regulation of firearms.

Behind the veneer of a clubby group of hunters and sportsmen lies a contingent of Americans who believe that any discussion with the government is a deal with the devil. This comes from their innate fear of a government that is ready to supplant the Constitution to implement a New World Order that Nostradamus never would have dreamed of predicting. This is the same establishment to whom these same anti-government types gave sweeping powers under the PATRIOT Act. They are maintaining vigilance against a system they feed and support.

There, of course, is the public safety component of the gun control debate. Yes, we could consider arming folks to defend themselves the next time there is a mass killing. Well, this is defense when we need to be taking the offense. If can prevent the likes of Charles Whitman, John Hinckley, Jr., Adam Lanza from becoming a danger to our society, we could finally know that we have attacked the issue and not each other.

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