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Rizwan A. Rahmani Headshot

Hammering Nails in the Gun Bill Coffin

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When the gun bill was gasping its last breath, Obama and the first lady's speech, as well as an all out push by the parents of the Sandy Hook children, may have revived it for a fleeting moment. The best chance of passing a gun bill in over a decade may have had some legs: The sight of sobbing parents at Hartford and the video plea from the grieved mother were beginning to find chinks in the gun lobby's suit of armor. But then came the Boston bombing, and it sucked all the wind out of gun bill's sails. With attention diverted from scrutinizing the gun issue, lawmakers surreptitiously and shamefully succeeded in defeating the background check bill by six measly votes while America looked in horror at Boston.

No one underestimates the choke hold the gun lobby has of the congress or the American penchant for guns. But corrective legislation we urgently need -- before more innocent lives are lost. And even if congress were to pass a bill, guns will remain a large factor in the American equation of sanguine violence.

I do not wish to minimize the Boston incident, which was horrendously tragic and abhorrent. Lives were lost, hundreds of people were injured and several were maimed. Yet the nature of that incident differs entirely from day to day gun violence. Bombings are rare and cannot compare to daily gun related violence and loss of lives diurnally. I am nauseated by the media's incessant and sensationalized coverage of the Boston event, in typical inexorably redundant fashion with no end in sight, forcing the nation to relive the nightmare in lurid detail through expert guests, barbed captions, terror analysts espousing theories, and no shortage of maudlin solemnity. One oft mentioned notorious cable "news" channel has already suggested abrogation of all sorts of constitutional rights in light of the Boston event, but god forbid one of them happens to be even the slightest modification of the second of those rights: that's constitutional sacrilege. Yes, there was broad coverage of the Sandy Hook incident, but it wasn't even closely equitable.

Tragically too, thousands of other children have been already gunned down, and are being gunned down as we speak. Sadly it took a mass shooting of mostly white children in a wealthy school to get any traction, and to have even the possibility of passing an anemic and diluted bill. The media should be ashamed of itself for not taking issue with Congress or the gun lobby and taking them to task. I wish it had conducted equally ceaseless coverage of Sandy Hook to keep the issue alive in the news, but it appears the media doesn't put equally intrinsic value on those twenty innocent children's lives. Piers Morgan did try on his own, and which garnered him the wrath of the gun lobby and a barrage of offensive from gun nuts, who even tried to muzzle him by pushing a petition for his deportation.

I had seen some American cop and western shows growing up, and I thought the gun-toting culture depiction was merely fictional. Was I in for a surprise when I arrived here! The ubiquitousness of guns was simply astounding. I had hardly seen any guns in India during my early childhood, and saw my first guns when I was a teen: My uncle who was a professional hunter in the Assam region brought guns one summer. That summer, when my younger uncle shot a bird, the bang (my first) shattered the quietude of the forest like glass, making everyone jump and the reverberation seem to last forever. This same uncle's son Gama, who was the Adonis of the family, died at his hand accidentally during a routine gun cleaning: he never recovered from that grief.

Buying a gun in United States is a cake walk, and the laws are conveniently orchestrated by the NRA and its proponents to do exactly that: Anyone or everyone can get a gun. Guns are big business for the industry and congress: they benefit handsomely for protecting these merchants of carnage by receiving huge sums of monies for their reelection campaign. It's the only industry that is not subject to spot check, inventory check, record keeping, or many other commerce laws. The gun lobby not only has the lawmakers over a barrel (there hasn't been a head of ATF since 2006 although there's been a nominee since 2010), it actually writes its own laws that get stealthily amalgamated with other bills to slip under the radar of scrutiny.

Guns are simply too complicated and expensive to acquire in India. Even if you could afford one, the labyrinthine bureaucracy one has to negotiate is quite irksome. But those who own guns (and these are not automatic, high capacity magazine, assault rifle type guns) hardly ever use it for protection as gun violence is quite rare -- still there are about 46 million guns in India. Owning a gun there is more akin to owning a luxury German sedan; it is merely a social status symbol.

The gun lobby will have you believe guns are the elixir for preventing all crimes, the perfect apotropaic talisman to be placed on everyone, even on school grounds. Like the old saying goes, "Those who live by the sword die by the sword", and Americans are certainly dying in gun-related deaths to a tune of nearly 34,000 deaths yearly. The statistics on just accidental gun deaths is no anomaly but conservative talking heads are constantly trying to dupe unsuspecting second amendment patriots into stockpiling more guns as if there were imminent danger of attack from Feds.

We don't let cigarette commercials on TV or sell them to minors, we card people for alcohol purchases and certain OTC drugs, we regulate the purchase and use of automobiles -- yet it is perfectly legal to market diminutive guns that are especially designed for children who can then accidentally shoot their younger sibling. The gun industry and their henchmen at the NRA are nothing if not cunning: they don't want a little thing like background checks encumbering their
cozy Laissez-faire business practices.