We live in a post 9/11 society that has harnessed an ability to employ every technological means along with unleashing legal restraints to fortify unparalleled security measures in our war for safety. Several wars and presidents later, and now with a new incursion into Syria, the cost and sacrifice for our security continues to spiral. Paranoia runs high. Police are militarized. Citizens are militarized strolling streets and store aisles "jewelried" by firearms strapped to their bodies as if in some futuristic apocalyptic movie. And then, despite all of this heightened security, some guy in daylight freely hops over the spiked White House iron gates, jogs across the lawn and enters the White House through an unlocked front door where he is finally tackled and apprehended. This is an unprecedented and historical event that has been made by the lowest form of the biggest security breach at the highest asset of our society. It is incredible and incredulous.
The media machine is chomping down on this as a secret service institutional dysfunction. There will be Congressional investigations, soul-searching, protocol reforms, sound bites, and political grandstanding, but the other equally scandalous dirty laundry part of this story will not get hung out to air. The NRA will see to it. Why was the obviously mentally unhinged perpetrator, a known-known to law enforcement, Omar J. Gonzales, 42, a two tour Iraq war veteran able to own a personal firearms arsenal, some of which he had loaded in his car parked near the White House. Luckily, he was not intent on using it on that day in that moment in that setting.
Our society is very sick but not yet sick enough of guns. Sick with a warped second amendment epidemic guided by the likes of the National Rifle Association under the leadership of Wayne Lepierre and Ted Nugent who want to hand out guns to everyone, even and especially to kids as if it was candy. This is like the old mantra of McDonald's, "get a kid early and you have them for life." Whereas it would be unfair to blame our gun sickness entirely on the NRA, it is this organization that stands front and center with the money, tactics, power, politicians in their pocket, and symbolism that could immediately change the destructive trajectory that our gun culture costs to human life, to our way of life, and to our desire to walk free and brave in our own play areas free from senseless slaughter. Recent F.B.I. reports confirm what many believe, there is a clear and significant rise in mass shootings in America. This despite every slickly packaged argument for more gun amusement the NRA makes behind their house of reality distorting mirrors in defense of and advocacy of more guns for everyone. America has a greater daily security threat from folks with guns than deranged terrorists abroad. In the convoluted world of NRA mirrors the lies and deception cloud over the ugly truth that our gun culture fosters the economic health of the "mourning-grieving industry."
But rather than be a reasonable broker to balance rights with real safety, the NRA has been grossly negligent and hostile to even the slightest retreat from out of control gun promiscuity. After each high profile gun slaughter episode that causes a societal wink, nod, acknowledgement and obligatory notion that maybe now change can occur, the NRA goes into damage control mode by disappearing into silence, until the news cycle moves to the next big headline, then it emerges from their dark corridors of power and influence with some nutty pro gun candy coated taunt aimed to defuse reasonable dissent.
The latest episode that sparked this artist out of numbness and reached down into my second amendment mental abyss to pull me back into the light happened on August 25, 2014. A nine year old girl in Arizona lost control of her Uzi firearm and shot and killed her gun instructor, Charles Vacca, 39, at the Last Stop Shooting Range, also known as "Bullets and Burgers." The little girl was learning to shoot an Uzi? When did this become part of the American gunscape? It truly was a "last stop" for the parties involved. How much more perverted can it get than changing behavior with a conditioned pairing of burgers, "kid candy," with the danger of firing exotic, rare and powerful guns. Is this the McDonaldization of guns and is it really supposed to be amusement?
I am pleased that Mr. Vacca's family is praying for her without contempt. But this little girl's summer vacation became a needless life changing tragedy. Sadly and incredibly, she was of legal age in Arizona, set at eight to shoot this weapon. Mr. Vacca leaves behind a wife and four children. That makes five lives multiplied by two entire social circles devastated by this tragedy. For what? Ultimately this was ruled an"industrial accident." Incredible! And the NRA after-the-dust-settled response, "kids just wanna have fun." Incredulous!
There are thirty gun deaths a day in America. I ache when I consider how many lives have been lost and ruined over senseless perverted NRA interpretations to the right to keep and bear arms. I ache when I hear of little kids, mentally disturbed folks and veterans, and for each relative of perpetrators and victims that become part of the slaughter. I began to think about a mountain of shoes of the dead from gun violence and how that would compare to the scenes of shoes from victims of the Holocaust at the hands of Nazis. This reality motivated me to paint "NRA Mad House of Mirrors." The only way out of this is to see through the NRA's mirrors.