It seems like every time you think you've seen or heard it all, something else pops up to prove just how wrong you can be. Take the horror of gun violence. A crazed gunman shoots up a political rally in Tucson, killing six (including the chief judge of the U.S. District Court and a nine year old girl) and gravely wounds a sitting United States Congresswoman. At the time it seemed about as brazen and depraved an act as could be. Then the ante was upped at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, where an even more crazed gunman murdered 20 schoolchildren, 6 staff members and his mother. Then there was the mass shooting inside an Aurora, Colorado movie theatre in which a dozen were killed, and an additional 70 wounded.
Then there are all the cases of kids who accidentally shoot -- and frequently kill -- their friends, siblings, parents and even themselves with unsecured guns they find at home.
It just can't get any more insane, right?
Just this week, a nine-year-old girl was at a shooting range with her parents. The range was located at the eerily-named "Arizona Last Stop." The little girl was receiving instruction in how to use an automatic Uzi because, according to her parents, it was on the little girl's "bucket list." According to investigators when the little girl pulled the trigger the recoil caused the gun to fly over her head. A bullet struck her 39-year-old instructor in the head. He was killed, and God knows what the nine-year old girl is going through . . . or might go through for the rest of her life.
One wonders what kind of parents would permit their child to target practice with a fully-automatic weapon. When questioned, they flatly stated that doing so was "high on her bucket list." I may not be the hippest dude on the block, but I do know that the items on one's "bucket list" are those things a person itches to do, see or experience before they die. Keeping this in mind, what in the hell is a nine-year old doing with a bucket list in the first place? And one that her parents actually take seriously and feel they must respond to? They've got to be the most indulgent parents on the planet. Or just plain stupid . . .
The outdoor shooting range, "Burgers and Bullets Adventure," offers its customers the opportunity to shoot a wide variety of automatic and "specialty" weapons. Its owner, Sam Scamardo says his business is a great place to hold birthday and bachelor (or bachelorette) parties. When questioned about the appropriateness of permitting a nine-year old to fire an Uzi, Scamardo told MSNBC's Chris Hayes that so long as children have parental permission, they are free to fire any weapon he's got. And besides, he added, this particular nine-year old was "quite mature for her age."
As with virtually every gun atrocity, the NRA response was as crass and inappropriate as a strip tease in a cathedral. Within 24 hours of the tragic shooting, a Twitter account linked to National Rifle Association Women sent out a link promoting "Seven ways children can have fun at the shooting range." (Admittedly, this article was posted about a week before the Arizona shooting. Nonetheless, the NRA Tweet -- since deleted -- was posted 24 hours after the tragedy.)
Every time some deranged individual takes up a fully- or semi-automatic weapon and sprays a gathering with deadly fire, you can count on the NRA to stand foursquarely against anything -- ANYTHING -- that might seriously address the issue of gun violence. Limit the number of rounds of ammunition in a magazine? Forget about it. Institute background checks for weapons purchased at gun shows? No way Ray. Urge common sense in keeping Uzis and other automatic weapons out of the hands of children? You've got to be kidding. To virtually every query, concern or proposal the NRA responds with one of two moronic bromides: either "Guns don't kill people; people kill people," or "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Then too, they are notorious for sounding the alarm of weapons' confiscation, breathlessly warning, "Today they limit the number of rounds in a magazine; tomorrow they take away all our weapons."
Welcome to the slippery slope.
The NRA is unquestionably out of step with a majority of the American public -- and with a substantial percentage of their own members. According to the most recent Pew Research Center Survey 74% of those who belong to the NRA favor the idea of making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks. The NRA made damn sure a bill calling for such checks died in Congress. And where 51% of the American public support a ban on high capacity ammunition clips, more than a third (35%) of NRA members also supports such a ban. And yet, the NRA continues wearing blinders, standing up to any and every sensible proposal, raking in the cash and making life miserable for any elected official who dares go against their wishes even once.
No one really knows why America is more gun-nutty than any other country in the world. Some claim it is in our DNA; that from our earliest days we carried weapons for protection and providing food. Our Wild West heritage -- at least as portrayed in a million-and-one on-screen oaters, has every man walking around brandishing six-guns and a belt-full of bullets. Today, many blame Hollywood and claim that movies are at the root of so many massacres and mass killings; people are emulating what they see on the big screen. And yet, for anyone who has been around the making of films, Hollywood is exceptionally aware of the danger presented by guns. According to Alan Wald, a lifelong friend, fellow "Hollywood Brat," and actor:
So what's it going to take to quell the epidemic of gun violence in America? At a time when Georgia has enacted a "carry anywhere" law, which permits licensed gun owners to pack heat in bars, schools, churches and many government buildings, what is the average non-gun owning citizen to do? What's going to level the playing field -- or in this case the shooting range?
Sadly, the answer is not "one more atrocity." Every time a heavily armed crazy blasts his or her way on to the front pages, our horror, anger and desire to do something is thwarted -- if not check-mated -- by the weapons' industry shills of the National Rifle Association. There are thousands of laws -- federal, state and local -- dealing with guns in the country. They range from California, where all firearms sales, transfers, including private transactions and sales at gun shows, must go through a California licensed firearms dealer, to Georgia, where, as noted above, licensed gun owners are permitted to carry weapons virtually anywhere. A recent exhaustive study by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence shows there is some correlation between the strictness of gun laws and the incident of gun deaths; seven of the ten states with the lowest number of gun deaths in 2013 came in states with the strongest gun laws.
And yet, statistics can't change anything. Only people can; citizens who once and for all refuse to let their shock, outrage and nausea be blunted or shunted by the fear mongers, the NRA, and those who make a killing off of killing.
That's one thing that's at the top of my bucket list.
How about you?
Copyright ©2014 Kurt F. Stone