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Tuesday, 11 January 2011 22:15

Reforming our Gun Culture

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Well, your second-amendment solution reared its ugly head this week in Tucson with the shooting of Gabby Giffords, a blue dog Democrat who was re-elected in November. Those folks who try to say there is some equivalence between angry liberal talk and Sarah Palin’s “cross hairs” rhetoric are self-serving deniers who refuse to acknowledge the part they play in the deterioration of civil discourse in our country.

On Sunday we were reminded by Republicans that people said nasty things about George Bush, but it would be hard to equal the verbal rampage of right-wing talk radio hosts or to find snapshots of Democrats with high-powered weapons strapped to their legs at political rallies. Nor can the comments of Sharron Angle with respect to utilizing second-amendment solutions if elections fail to support one’s views find equivalent expression on the left. It’s time to stop being so reasonable and shouldering some of the blame for the harshness of our national political terrain. Shooting your mouth off is a far cry from hoisting a weapon and dropping an enemy in his tracks.

Glorification of the gun culture and the insistence by some that the Second Amendment provides cover for acts of violence that threaten the stability of our society are a diminution of rights for those of us who choose not to pack heat as a way of resolving conflicts. Should the rights of gun provocateurs carry more weight than those of the general population? Right-wing pols stepped up quickly pointing out that no motive had as yet been ascertained by authorities for the shooter’s behavior, as if the absence of a political agenda would make a difference in assigning blame - - just an unhinged social misfit they kept saying. But such facile explanations miss a larger point.

Whether the wacko right has a political point to make in every instance or not its freedom to make its case with live ammunition and high-speed delivery systems impart an especially potent message. Long gone is the single-shot weaponry of the commonwealth’s early days. Today’s assault weapons can demolish everything in their path in a matter of seconds. Did that original “right to bear arms” clause envision an expansion of such magnitude?

In any case, the real issue with respect to the Second Amendment and the violence that attaches to so much of today’s political discussion is that anger and outrage at the point of a gun have somehow become acceptable. Politico’s Jake Sherman referred to gun violence as “the new reality” as if we all need to come to grips with it. We have gone way off track as politicians and voters strive to avoid naming names and citing angry rhetoric for what it is.

Pat Buchanan and other conservatives are hard at work pointing out past shootings and ugly talk in our history. But not since the days of the civil rights movement have we seen actual targets on the backs of politicians and their advocates In today’s overheated climate it isn’t enough to disagree with a policy, one must heed a call to arms that finds disagreement sinful and traitorous.

Wasn’t there a way of getting political points across without the threat of violence and insurrection? When did we return to the stone age of our historical development instead of moving on to a period of enlightenment? Have we been moving so fast we just raced right past that moment in time when we failed to further our progressive impulses and allowed the worst elements of our political structure to overwhelm our better selves in the name of some twisted partisan narrative?

There is no making sense of events in Tucson. One thing is clear, however. Our society has been overwhelmed by the violence of guns and vitriolic rhetoric in ways we could never have imagined a few short years ago. For us to accept gun rights as the cornerstone of our democracy and allow a climate of unrest and hatred to prevail is to give up on moving the country to a better place.

If Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle and right-wing apologists are to assume legitimacy as national leaders they had best loosen their embrace of the NRA no matter how much money they will have to forfeit as a result. We need to re-examine our gun laws. Sensible regulations and limits on the kind of weapons we can tolerate should be on the table for reform.

What we have now is an out-of-control gun culture that is a troubling and destructive force in our society.

Read 969 times Last modified on Wednesday, 12 January 2011 00:06