As Bob Dylan sang in the 60s, "Yes, how many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry? Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?"
In all the chatter about public education in America, I've never heard or read a suggestion that we should make the prevention of gun violence part of the curriculum. As it stands now, America's children spend more time dodging bullets in school than discussing the increasingly violent, entitled culture they are inheriting.
Last summer's tragedy at a movie theater in Aurora became another opportunity for gun folks to deny reality and invoke the Second Amendment. "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." If only some other movie patron had been packing heat, many gun owners claimed, perhaps James Holmes would have been "taken out" before he completed his gruesome mission, despite overwhelming evidence and expert testimony from police officers that armed settings, whether homes or movie theaters, are more, not less, dangerous.
The day after the Aurora massacre, I received a robo-call from Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The call invited me to join the organization and help them fight back against the imaginary campaign to disarm patriotic Americans. The NRA is a despicable organization. Their lobbying has been instrumental in turning back nearly every effort to stop the insanity of an increasingly armed nation. The call was infuriating and reminded me of the surreal sight of Charlton Heston hefting a rifle at a NRA rally in Colorado shortly after children were slaughtered at Columbine. Have they no shame?
Their work has created a legal and social climate where a disturbed man like Holmes could legally and easily buy a semi-automatic AR-15 and a 100 round rifle drum that, according to experts, could fire 40-60 deadly rounds in one minute. But, the NRA and others insist, outlawing such weapons wouldn't help. Bad (or sick) guys like Holmes would get the firepower somewhere else anyway. Or he could have made a bomb, one particularly smug pundit sneered.
After the Aurora shootings, gun sales skyrocketed as citizens raced to flex their Constitutional muscles, just as they did after Columbine, Tucson and Virginia Tech. The only thing better for the gun industry than mass murder was Obama's 2008 election. The FBI reports that from November 3-8, 2008, gun permits were up 49 percent. And guess what? It happened again in 2012. I guess a black man in the White House still threatens a lot of folks' manhood.
We are now the most armed nation on the planet. According to a report issued several years ago by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies, there are about 90 guns in America for every 100 citizens. Americans buy more than half of all the guns manufactured in the world. Second on the list of most armed nations is Yemen. This is the kind of company we keep.
While I disagree with the current Supreme Court's view of the Second Amendment, why is it only this particular right that Americans are so insistent on exercising and cowardly legislators are so eager to protect?
The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. In New York and other major cities, black men and boys are stopped and frisked every day for no justifiable reason. Where's the outrage?
The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from making or enforcing laws that abridge the privileges of United States citizens. Ask gay and lesbian folks how vigorously that prohibition is being enforced. The odious Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is still the law of the land, despite some encouraging actions at the state level.
The Fifteenth Amendment guarantees the right of every American to vote. Why was there such little public concern over discriminatory voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and other states that sought to systematically disenfranchise the old, the poor and folks of color?
It seems the only part of the Bill of Rights worth protecting in America is the Second Amendment.
But this issue is not primarily about the right to bear arms. The NRA and its lapdogs in the legislature have created a culture where men and boys (yes, mostly males) are conditioned to believe they have the right to use arms. It's not about hunting, target shooting or the Second Amendment. It's about entitlement, arrogance and incivility. "Stand Your Ground!" we're told.
Just two of many recent events indicate what happens when "Stand Your Ground" becomes the national athem.
In Minnesota, a proud gun-owner slaughtered two unarmed teenagers. who broke into his house - instant capital punishment for a break-in. The teens were apparently seeking prescription drugs. He described his final shot under the chin and up to the cranium of an already near-dead teenage girl as "a good clean finishing shot."
In Florida a man with a concealed weapon permit shot and killed a teenager outside a convenience store. The dispute began because the boy and his friends were playing loud music in their car. The gunman claims the boys had a shotgun. No such gun was found at the site or elsewhere.
The next tragedy is, unfortunately, just around the bend.