BuzzFlash Guest Commentary
October 10, 2002
Down the Rabbit Hole Redux
BuzzFlash Guest Commentary
Six dead at this writing. Two persons grievously wounded, including a school child. Several million citizens in the nation's capital and two surrounding states terrorized by a merciless bushwhacker. If ever there were a time for leadership at the top, this is it. So where are President Bush and his Attorney General, John Ashcroft? Down the rabbit hole.
While a sniper stalks Washington and its environs, the President and the Attorney General are paralyzed by the political deal they have made with the ideological devil of "gun rights." No matter what new atrocity the gun industry visits upon the land, the Bush Administration bunkers in, hunkers down, and clams up. Like most of the Republican political establishment, the President and his minions are determined not to offend the National Rifle Association and the gun industry for which it flacks. The Bush Administration has adopted whole-hog the NRA's rhetoric that the answer to gun violence is simply enforcing the laws on the books, no matter how inadequate they may be. So, let's assume the sniper is caught and successfully prosecuted to the full extent of the law. That simply closes the barn door behind at least six innocent people dead, and an entire community shaken to its core by gun violence that could have been prevented.
If the President and the nation's chief law enforcement officer were not hypnotized by the pro-gun mantra, they would stand up to America's ruthless gun industry and demand that it be brought under control. Because the events of the last several days are the natural and probable consequence of the industry's reckless consequences-be-damned theory of marketing.
Welcome to the future. It only gets worse from here. For we are watching the bitter slow-motion harvest of two execrable gun industry trends: the mass marketing of military and military-style weapons to civilians, and the foolish promotion of a sniper subculture within the American gun community. This madness is far afield from any conceivable arguments about sporting or self-defense use of firearms. It indulges an open invitation to random, large-scale violence on the altar of unrestrained license to own anything that goes bang.
Most gun owners are law-abiding folks not looking for or causing trouble. But, wracked with declining markets and economic bad news, the gun industry has been relentless in pushing the sale of military and military-style weapons to civilians. The worst of these are the sniper rifles and assault rifles that have become a staple of the rifle market. Any 18-year old who can pass a Brady check can buy a 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle just like the one the U.S. Marines used during the Gulf War to take out Iraqi armored personnel carriers. The .223 Remington round known to be used in most of the recent sniper shootings (and probably used in all of them) was originally developed as a round for the U.S. military's assault rifle, the M-16.
Add to this mass marketing the promotion of a sniper culture that glorifies the idea of the sniper and the pursuit of sniper skills as a "sport," and you have the recipe not merely for probable, but for certain, disaster. The culture, techniques, and tools of sniping are now taught to all comers through scores of books, videos, Internet web sites, and other materials.
Who can be surprised that some marginal misfit -- whether a psychopath, a person consumed with out-of-control anger at somebody or something, or a terrorist -- who has been encouraged, taught, and psychologically conditioned by this sniper culture cuts loose and starts killing?
What can our national leadership do? First, the President could condemn the sickness of this civilian sniper subculture. Second, he and the Attorney General can get behind legislation pending in Congress that would subject the American gun industry to the same kind of product health and safety controls to which every other consumer product is subject. In short, they should apply to gun violence the same standard they apply to terrorism -- prevent it from happening in the first place.
But to do that, first they'll have to come up out of the rabbit hole.
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