Yet another mass killing happened last Friday in Santa Barbara, where a deranged 22 year old man, Elliott Rodger, went on a rampage, killing 6 and injuring 13. During the shooting spree, he fired weapons likely dozens of times, sometimes randomly through the window of his speeding car before he finally crashed and took his own life. Of the victims, he killed 3 with a knife, killed 3 with guns, injured 3 with his car, and injured another 10 through random shooting. In all, there were 19 victims, 13 by gunfire. After he took his own life, police found over 400 rounds of ammunition in magazines in his car.
In the past, it's been traditional for the NRA and other pro-gun organizations to go underground for some days after a mass shooting, saying only that anyone who talks about gun violence is merely "politicizing a tragedy"; they would eventually emerge, reciting a few platitudes about praying for the families, blah, blah, before going back to business, pouring millions of dollars into politicians pockets, paying them to stand idly by, doing nothing. However, that stopped working after the Newtown tragedy, and they've changed tactics, becoming much more aggressive. Now gun culture surrogates emerge immediately after a mass shooting, downplaying the level of violence and emphasizing every possible factor that takes the focus off of guns, usually mental health, other weapons, political leanings, and failures of local officials rather than acknowledging the elephant in the room.
Recently, though, even that tactic has taken a dark turn. Now gun cultists have begun attacking victims, their families and those who defend them. "Truthers" now vandalize memorials to victims, even confronting their families spouting nonsense about "false flags" and that their loved one never even existed. It's become especially bad in states like Texas, where zealots, who brandish loaded weapons in public, taunt and sometimes threaten perfectly innocent people, especially women, who dare to talk about gun safety and sane policy. Civility and simple common courtesy have gone out the window in favor of inflammatory rhetoric, fueled by talk radio and radical organizations who believe their "2A" rights trump all other rights and the rights of all other Americans. To add insult to injury, pseudo-celebrities often add their own voices to the din, usually with some inane comment about "liberty" with a little victim blaming thrown in.
It happened again after the Isla Vista rampage, where social media came alive with the usual gun memes and commenters focusing simply on the car and the knife that Elliott Rodger used, completely ignoring the gun violence. Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher then chimed in, with an open letter on conservative blog, BarbWire. It was the normal partisan screed that we've come to expect from Wurzelbacher since he was inflicted upon the American public by the McCain campaign in 2008, but this one was particularly heartless, where he poured salt into the wounds of the victims' families, saying:
"As harsh as this sounds -- your dead kids don't trump my Constitutional rights."
"Mr. Martinez and anyone calling for more restrictions on American's rights need to back off and stop playing into the hands of the folks who merely capitalize on these horrific events for their own political ends.
They don't care about your family or your dead children at all. They sound like they do, whereas I sound uncaring and like I say, harsh. Don't be fooled -- I care about your family and mine. The future of our very liberty lies in the balance of this fight.
In conclusion, I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are going through, having had your child taken away from you. However, any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those."
So, to be clear... while claiming the opposite, Wurzelbacher politicizes the deaths of these victims, ignoring the families' rights and grief in the process. Such is the state of the gun debate in the US today. The gun cult has radicalized in the wake of the Newtown tragedy and subsequent mass shootings, especially since our political leaders are silent, held hostage by the gun lobby. In that vacuum of leadership, the size of mass shootings increases and the lethality of weapons continue unabated. Emboldened by the utter lack of political leadership that has tied the hands of law enforcement, gun cultists now use social media to taunt, insult, threaten, and celebrate the gun culture, parade around with loaded assault weapons and use violence such as in Isla Vista as a catalyst to escalate their rhetoric, hate, and mis-information.
The problem here is obvious to everyone not blinded by the nonsense spouted by the NRA and other gun organizations promoting the notion of life in America as a running gun battle. Responsible gun owners like me want lethal weapons taken out of the hands of the untrained, the unstable, the criminal, and the terrorists. I thought Newtown would finally change the conversation. It has, but unfortunately for the worse.