On the morning of November 1st, I dropped my husband and his parents off at the airport at LAX, Terminal 3. They were waiting for a wheelchair for my mother-in-law when all of a sudden, Paul Ciancia came through the doors and began his shooting rampage, killing a TSA officer and wounding others. They were about 40 feet away from him. Luckily, they escaped with their lives. Luckily, my husband and father-in-law were able to literally drag my mother-in-law out the door to safety. Luckily, the killer who glanced their way didn’t think my husband was a TSA officer despite his TSA blue shirt.
While we feel lucky, we are also angry–angry at all these mass shooters who take their angst out by killing innocent people, and angry at the NRA for their stranglehold on legislators so that we can’t get a ban on assault rifles or stricter background checks.
Australia instituted gun control laws in 1996 and it has proven to be successful, cutting the number of firearm homicide and suicide rates by more than half and virtually eliminating mass shootings since then. In China, where there are strict gun control laws, a crazy man went on a rampage at an elementary school, but managed to kill no one because he only had a knife.
But in our country, the NRA is a virtual subsidiary of gun manufacturers who are “corporate partners,” contributing a percentage of every sale they make to the NRA. The NRA spent roughly $19 million in the last major election supporting their select Republican candidates and opposing the Democrats running against them. Just a drop in the bucket in the $12-billion-a-year gun industry. The NRA heads could care less about the 2nd amendment. It’s all about the money–money they make from gun sales. And money can make a soulless baby killer out of anyone, especially anyone with a gun. NRA vice president, Wayne LaPierre’s idiotic response to Sandy Hook was to put more guns on campus. Why? “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Uh huh. Translate that to: “Duh, because it means more gun sales and more money for me, bwa ha ha!”
So all of this leads me to the ATH questions for the week. Have you or someone you know been affected by gun violence? Is there a solution to any of this? Can the 90 percent of Americans who support expanded background checks ever win against the NRA? Can we go after the big gun manufacturers themselves instead? Can there be a grass-roots campaign like the anti-tobacco movement involving young people who are often affected by gun violence? Or are we resigned to living with mass shootings as our daily normal?
ROGER: I got held up at gunpoint about 18 years ago. I totally remember this huge barrel revolver just inches from my chest. Had the gun-wielding thief just twitched, I’d have a hole the size of a grapefruit in my chest and my heart would have been shredded into meat fragments. Guns are so absolute when they come into an equation. They have the power to stop any conversation because if used, the end result is so final. The person who wields the weapon instantly becomes the most powerful person in the room. And those whom which he points it becomes his immediate servants. I could do nothing but grant him my subservience and hand over my phone, watch, and wallet. There was no discussion, debate, or reasoning with a socio-physical weapon with such destructive might.
I’m not a fan of guns. Though I have shot a few in my lifetime and even went to an indoor shooting range in Honolulu to test out a few automatic assault rifles, I just don’t think they’re necessary. The gun debate has turned into such a circus of twisted logic. It’s fear blended with a warped interpretation of the Constitution mixed with religion, a dash of politics, and a heap of big money corporate greed. Week after week after week there’s yet another mass shooting to report. Yet nothing changes. It makes no sense. America is becoming a scarier and scarier place to live due to it’s illogical, super-lax gun control laws. I’d vote for an America with zero guns. And I would imagine, if put to a public vote, a majority of America would do the same. But, unfortunately, that’s not the way America works.
ALFREDO: I remember hearing something about how individual gun rights were written into the Constitution as a safeguard against tyrannical government firepower. Well, I don’t care how big your rifle is, the government has a bigger one…and an RPG…and a tank…and a nuke. A friend of mine offered an interesting solution: if it’s too hard to ban guns, just ban bullets instead. I’d much rather be pistol whipped than bullet whipped. We don’t need to hunt anymore – that’s what supermarkets are for. So the whole thing is just ridiculous. Gun in the house to protect against the bad guy? I bet cash money you’ll take out your spouse or kid or yourself, long before you stop a burglar. Thought: Nerf guns. We all get Nerf guns from the feds. Then we can be as impetuous and hot headed and reckless as we want.
QUENTIN: Can the right to bear arms be interpreted as having the right to have nuclear weapons? Hm… we all know guns should be banned or be made very difficult to get. It’s the only way to solve mass killings in America.
BEVERLY: This is a difficult question to answer. I have had a really bad gun experience that I’m still not able to share. All I can say is that sometimes it’s not the gun, but the person wielding it and his/her state of mind at that moment. I’ve seen a completely NORMAL ASTUTE RATIONAL human being lose it and almost do the unthinkable. (It was avoided hence why I’m still here.)
And despite that, I’m still torn regarding guns. On one hand, my experiences are of city living where I -as a human- have no other natural predators so a gun is rather ridiculous, no? The only real predators in a city are other humans and I do believe those predators are sick in the head. They shouldn’t have guns. Really. However, I have no idea how they get them. I have a feeling a good number of them obtain them illegally, and thus how do you stop THAT?
On the other hand, that is me as a Californian talking. It is not a ‘way of life’ as it is for other parts of the country. I’ve been out I the true wilderness where I was not the king of the food chain (ie grizzlies in the farther reaches of Alaska), and I know a lot of the locals carried guns to protect themselves from bears. Gun owning was viewed differently. Some people still provide for their families (supplement really) with hunting. And hunting (done well and respectfully) can be very in tune with the cycle of nature’s giving/taking.
However, no. Not everyone should have a gun. There are too many guns and not enough respect for them. And from the guns that I have seen exchanged around me, it IS too EASY to get because gun-owning is so casual in the U.S.
But if we are to start anywhere: ban assault rifles.
DHH: When my son was younger, he enjoyed visiting his farming cousins (on my wife’s side) in Kansas. He got to shoot a gun there, which of course as a kid he loved, but his uncles also taught him to respect the weapon, which I think was a pretty good education for a New York City kid. Those of us who live in urban areas feel its self-evident that we need stricter gun control laws, yet, as Iris says, nothing seems to change. Those who live where guns are used for work and sport may not share all our views, but there are areas of agreement, like background checks, and limited sale of assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons. It seems to me that the NRA and its gun fundamentalism no longer represent all gun-owners, but who else do they have to turn to? It’d be great if a more moderate group arose to speak for the sensible majority. Until then, I suppose we need to support efforts of people like Michael Bloomberg, who are fighting the NRA with what appears to be the most promising weapon: heaps and heaps of cash.
PHILIP: As I’ve (sort of) joked about before–people of color should join the NRA en masse. I think the NRA might start feeling differently when faced with the thought of a horde of black, brown, red and yellow people with a lot of guns.
EMMIE: Great questions, Iris. The situation is disheartening. I’m guessing it’ll take a long while for a grassroots campaign to be massive enough to bring on change, and sadly, I’m also guessing that this will happen only after the situation gets far worse than it already is. There’s so much to say about this topic but I don’t feel capable of saying anything that we haven’t already heard – which is not to say that I don’t want to speak up – but I think I’m one of millions who dislike violence, but feel powerless: powerless among corporate/capitalistic/political machinations, and powerless in a world that has always been filled with horrifying violence.
I’m very glad to hear that your husband and his parents were safe that day.