A Gun Walks Into A Bar……
As I sit here typing this, I’m listening to the music of Jillian Johnson and The Figs. Getting progressively and more intolerably angry. I simply cannot take it anymore. This is madness. The Lafayette, Louisiana shooting has hit home. Truly. While I did not know Mayci Breaux and I did not personally know Jillian (though wish I had), friends back home did. So much did Jillian give to her community – and even more so to the world at large through her music – gone at the age of 33. Mayci, a bright mind eager to start her career in the medical field. Gone, 21 years old. These deaths are a damn disgrace and have enraged me to my core. This is not going to be my most eloquent writing. Nor will it be the most popular or widely read and shared (though it may draw the most comments from friends at home). Nevertheless, here it is, words on a page (screen). They will not mean much to most, but they are all I can offer in the wake of this scourge that is eating us alive. Every. Single. Day.
Though I have spent the last 18+ years in Los Angeles, I was born and raised in Rayne, Louisiana, a short drive from Lafayette. Steeped in a culture of hunting and guns. I began college at USL (now UL) and am a proud McNeese graduate. I have seen countless movies at The Grand 16. My parents, sister, nephews and niece are there frequently. In fact, my mother and father had planned to see Trainwreck the very night after the shooting. At the very same showing. My godchild’s husband, who was just so tragically taken in a small plane crash in Basile at the age of 32….his first cousin was a victim that night at The Grand. Shot in the stomach. So yes. This hits close. It packs quite a different punch when it’s you and/or yours.
I have not written about guns or the stain on our country that is the Second Amendment since 20 grade-school children were killed at Newtown. There have been 75 mass shootings in the U.S. since then. Seventy-five. And this is saying nothing of the countless lives taken (that we know about) over the last many years to “general” gun violence (including accidents, suicide and police brutality) in our shoot-to-kill nation. Most recently, Charleston has come and gone. And with it, nine lives in a flash. And a raging debate over a piece of fabric that represents a slice of the nation still living in the 1860’s. Chattanooga has come and gone. Four marines and one sailor, fallen, not in Iraq or Afghanistan, but in a strip mall right here in the “Homeland”. In and out of the news cycle in less than 48 hours. There is no such thing as sanctuary anymore, people.
Nothing else should matter in a country until there is law and order. Peace. Security.
But now is still not the time to discuss this, right? To act. When is the time? When? Is this just something we have to live with? The price of “freedom”? Freedom should not mean having to pray, pray, pray that your kids come home each day and are safe from 8am to 3pm when they are supposed to be in the most protected of environments. Freedom should not mean having to quietly plan your escape route as the theatre lights dim. Having to hold your breath as the creepy guy walks into your church halfway through mass and paces in the back – this is not something a free people catch themselves doing.
Well, guess what – we do not have to live like this. We do not have to live with this affliction, this sickness, these knee-jerk, asinine reactions when a mass shooting occurs – “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. In the loudest voice I have: FUCK YOU. That is an idiotic statement. Guns do most certainly kill people. Are you such a miserable and selfish piece of humanity that you think your right to own a military grade assault rifle trumps those of a 6 year-old trying to learn how to read? What is the reasonableness of having a cache of weapons and ammunition as a regular, everyday citizen (ie: not military or law enforcement)? Louisiana, your Democratic candidate to replace Bobby Jindal, John Bel Edwards, actually repeated the guns-don’t-kill mantra not three days after The Grand 16 shooting.
As for Bobby Jindal….there are few words left for the man who has ruined – ruined – the state I called home. Immediately following the shooting, he said that he “never imagined” something like this would happen in Louisiana. Really? But hey, at least he waited a whole week to get back on his presidential stump, safely out of the state, to say what he really wanted to all along:
“I’m a big believer that where you are legally allowed to be, you should be able to have your Second Amendment rights as well”.
So, to be straight, this includes church. And pre-school. And the hospital. And a crowded park. And a stone’s throw from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. May I ask: when law enforcement is responding to a scene such as what we just witnessed in Lafayette, how are they supposed to distinguish between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun?
Louisiana’s gun laws are the most lax in the nation and it boasts the highest rate of gun deaths in this country. It was only last year – 2014 – that the state decided it would submit to reporting the mentally incompetent to the FBI-run NICS database (National Instant Criminal Background Check System)….it only took seven whole years after the database was established (in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 dead). Even with this mandate in place, Louisiana’s rate of reporting to the system has been abysmal and pathetic. In the year and a half since reporting began, the state has only submitted 1,700 records, compared, for instance, with teeny tiny Delaware, which reported over 20,000 in a six month period. And, other states that report to NICS have “immediate” or “24 hour” reporting requirements. Louisiana’s law gives a 25 day window. Now use your imagination to determine what can happen in 25 days’ time.
“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Question: if that’s the case, and if corporations are “people”, then why aren’t Bushmaster and Armalite held liable for mass shootings, just as the perpetrators – people – are? Oh, that’s right. Because virtually every state legislature has bowed to the mighty NRA; there are insidious laws on the books everywhere that protect manufacturers and sellers. Watch this interview with Sally and Lonnie Phillips, grieving parents whose daughter was killed in the Aurora theatre shooting. They sued the online ammunition sellers where James Holmes purchased an unthinkable amount of weaponry, with no I.D., even. But because of a Colorado state law specifically engineered to shield manufacturers and sellers, the suit was dismissed and they were ordered to pay $200,000 in attorney fees to the companies that supplied items used to kill their child.
Understand this – these companies have immunity. Gun and ammo manufacturers – for profit corporations – have immunity….immunity for any and all harm their “products” may cause, even if such harm is the result of gross negligence (in some cases, intentional malfeasance). Think about this perversion. The law rightly grants immunity for public or private protection if there is a sound public policy reason and a trade-off that makes sense to us citizens. For instance, police, firemen, a judge, etc, cannot be willy-nilly sued for everyday negligence.
As if the lives lost were not enough – they are – no one seems to consider the actual cost, fiscally speaking, of gun violence. I can do no better justice to the staggering figures here than Mother Jones did in their recent investigative piece, The True Cost of Gun Violence, where it is reported that our affliction costs us $700 per American per year. That’s 229 billion annually. To put this into perspective, we spend 30 billion a year on foreign aid. 251 billion on Medicaid. We spend 88 billion more on the fallout resulting from gun deaths than the federal government has budgeted for education. My god.
So what can we, as “ordinary” citizens do? I’m here to tell you that we have more power than we think. We must become one-issue voters.
Repeal the godforsaken Second Amendment.
There, I said it. Repeal. The. Second. Amendment. It is part of our Constitution that has zero place in and no relevancy to modern life. It is antiquated and has not been applicable in over 200 years. It was meant to provide for “a well regulated state militia” that would aid in preventing tyranny of and by the federal government (though I’m guessing many reading this still see this tyranny as a plausible threat). Discussing gun ownership as a federal right, one akin to religious freedom, is INSANE. Guns are a product (the 2nd is the only Amendment that deals with a for-profit product!). They are nothing more – a very dangerous product, and they must be regulated like any other dangerous product (ie: cars, alcohol, tobacco, etc). Our Supreme Court is there to interpret the Constitution (why SCOTUS appointments should be one of the first things considered when voting for a President). Over time, interpretations evolve. In 1876, the Court ruled that “the right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution”. In 1939, the Amendment’s meaning was re-interpreted: “the federal government and the states could limit any weapon types not having a ‘reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia’.” The most recent rendering of the meaning of the 2nd Amendment, the Heller decision of 2008 (Antonin Scalia’s wet dream), completely overstepped and perverted its intent; individuals, after all, do have a right to bear firearms, the Court said. We see how well that’s worked out. Where do we go from here?
It is time for us to evolve again. We need to repeal the Second Amendment. Full stop. Period. We need to repeal it and regulate this bloody product. I don’t care what your political stripes are. All the sensible people in our nation need to band together (the rest can secede) and we need to go toe to toe with the NRA and the lobbyists and manufacturers, because there is no more middle ground. It doesn’t exist. It is now all or nothing. I’m tired of hearing politicians pussyfoot around the issue of gun violence. “Now is not the time.” “We need prayers and hugs.” “No one is saying we’re going to come and round up your guns.” “We just need to do better in keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.” Welp – now IS the time. Yes, I WOULD like to live in a world with no fucking guns – none, zero, thank you, but I know that is unrealistic. And, forget the mental health aspect. Save it. I don’t want to hear about this until we address this problem on a base level, as a public safety issue, not a health issue. No “sane” person, no person in their right mind, walks into a crowded theatre, or a school, or a church, with the intent to murder innocent people. Yes, each and every one of these people committing these acts are unstable. No shit. But they also all had easy access to guns. I’ve heard so many times over the last week: “WHY”? Why did this happen? “It’s so frustrating not to know the motive here.” The motive…? The motive is irrelevant. It matters not one bit. What does matter is what we do next. This is not – should not be – a partisan issue. Simply, who is going to stand up and say enough? Which prominent public official?
My guess? None. We are so damned afraid. Our “leaders” are beholden to the NRA.
The NRA is a one-issue Lobby – a private sponsor of domestic terror in my opinion – supporting only the bottom line of gun and ammunition manufacturers. They aren’t going anywhere and they are ubiquitous: every city councilperson, every state legislator, every congressional and senate seat is in their sites. No A+ NRA rating? Sorry, we’ll finance and run this shill instead. It’s how they have built up, over a very long period of time, a seemingly impregnable hold on our lawmakers at every level.
As the singular industrialized and civilized (that’s debatable) nation left on the planet that does not have the balls to tackle firearms, that refuses to do something – anything – about this perpetual violence, we must become one-issue voters. If every single person touched by these senseless killings took this pledge, and held candidates to this test only, we could, and would, change our country for the absolute better.
Take the pledge:
I will not ever vote for any local, state or federal official, no matter their political affiliation, unless he or she is on record promising to work to repeal the Second Amendment and to vote for reasonable, sane safety restrictions and regulations on the manufacturing, sale, purchase and use of firearms and ammunition.
End of story. No pledge, no vote.
The only way to fight a one-issue institution is to become a one-issue opposition.
In the meantime:
“Be nice, do good work, try hard, listen, love.”
~ Jillian Johnson
It really is that simple.
[featured image courtesy of cartoonist Bill Day]