AMERICA’S DARK KNIGHT CONTINUES IN WISCONSIN…GUN CONTROL ANYONE?

Wade Michael Page, the shooter at the temple massacre in Oak Creek last Sunday, who was shot by police and then took his own life.

I began drafting this last weekend thinking the peg for my story was Aurora, Colo., when Oak Creek, Wis. fell victim to a mass shooting Sunday.

Wade Michael Page, through his misguided hate, opened fire on a congregation at a Sikh temple in the suburbs of Milwaukee.

The results: seven dead, including the shooter.

As a result I now know way too much about hate rock bands active in the white supremacist movement, such as Page’s band, End Apathy.

Meanwhile the tally in Aurora: 12 dead; 58 injured; four guns; and 6,000 rounds of ammunition. The lingering question is should something be done to prevent this sort of massacre from happening again?

We’ve gone through all the usual phases of grief surrounding this catastrophe. There have been funerals, candlelight vigils, emotional statements from family members of the victims and puffy rhetoric from politicians, but weeks later this still hasn’t settled well.

Gun control advocates seek tighter constraints over how and what kinds of firearms are sold, while the NRA takes their usual stance that more guns are safer and any regulations will immediately lead to the outlaw of all weapons.

Interestingly the majority of these shootings involve middle class Americans.

People in the poorer socioeconomic classes certainly have their stresses with trying to get by, but this often manifests itself through crime, such as robbery, burglary and drugs, with singular murders being the end result.

But the American Dream was never marketed to the poor. Those wallowing in poverty might catch the ads from time-to-time, but it requires clawing up to the middle class before “The Dream” is even offered for purchase.

With the big job comes a house on the hill, two kids, two cars, good schools, a boat, vacations, reliable health care, and a comfortable retirement.

This dream was marketed to the blue-collar elite and middle management. The pitch was that through hard work and sacrifice will come the spoils of “The Dream.” And it worked for a while, but slowly the wheels have fallen off.

Vast numbers of women entered the workforce in the 1970s and instead of housing prices remaining stable they doubled, then tripled. Two income households meant an upwardly mobile family could afford what it needed and bosses could withhold raises. Then inflation and the cost-of-living exceeded the two incomes and gradually that financial security began to erode.

Automation, job exports, and computer and Web-based innovations have streamlined corporations, turning America into an idea factory, but no longer a manufacturer.

Ideas may start here, and the finished product certainly will be sold locally, but the dirty work is now being done for a fraction of the cost abroad.

Then you factor in the ever-increasing presence of foreign nationals who are picking up the really tough, nasty jobs that most Americans don’t want. There is cheap construction labor, the meat packing industry, agriculture, dish washers, maids – these are all joint-busting jobs that have introduced immigrants to small town America and the big cities.

Together these elements had already impacted the foundation of the middle class, then came George W. Bush, tax cuts, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina, several Wall Street scandals, the mortgage crisis, followed by the recession, all resulting in people beginning to lose faith.

Nobody wants to be poor, but those who have known no other life are survivors of that system. On the other hand, the middle class is expecting “The Dream.” They are in no way prepared for the abyss below.

Politicians, Madison Avenue, movies and television have sold the middle class on achieving “The Dream.” It’s supposed to be there, but after seeing the very people who were put in charge of ensuring “The Dream” is delivered repeatedly turn around to line their own pockets, people are faltering.

It doesn’t compute.

You take away a person’s future that person may react violently.

And when they do, these guys are not just taking themselves out. Whole families are being exterminated in waves of murder/suicides, or numerous victims in workplace and school shootings.

We don’t know yet why James Eagen Holmes entered the Century movie theater and opened fire.

What I find disturbing about this story is that nobody is shocked by what happened.

Sure it’s sad. Everyone feels for the victims and their families, but no one is particularly surprised that this extremely intelligent kid dyed his hair red, put on tactical riot gear and proclaimed himself to be “The Joker” upon shooting up a movie theater.

There are so many of these mass shootings now.

Many are household names: Rep. Gabby Giffords, six killed; Virginia Tech, 32 killed; Columbine, 13 killed…

Here in Kentucky, home of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Tea Party heartthrob Sen. Rand Paul, there is no shortage of right-wing Republican activism. It also is where two violent rampages have taken place.

In 1989, Joseph Wesbecker, an employee of Standard Gravure in Louisville killed eight co-workers and himself with an assault rifle; and in 1998, student Michael Carneal killed three at Heath High School in Paducah.

Time magazine reported in its August 6th issue that the United States has averaged nearly 20 mass shootings per year between 1976-2010.

With this level of gun violence why can’t there be a realistic discussion about gun control?

Mostly it is because of scare tactics pushed by the NRA. This organization used to be a non-partisan hobby group aimed at bringing hunting and gun-enthusiasts together. It’s morphed into a right-wing political advocacy apparatus that pushes its conservative agenda through Republican members of Congress and spineless Democrats.

The NRA funnels a ton of cash to political candidates who are graded as “friendly” to pro-gun rights. This has successfully paralyzed Congress and state legislatures from taking any action on gun control, as no members want to risk receiving an “F” on an NRA report card.

It’s not like I believe the Second Amendment should be rescinded or that guns shouldn’t be available for purchase. I was a police officer previously and I appreciate firearms. I like to shoot guns and I get owning one for home defense.

America was founded on violence and it’s always going to be part of our DNA. We have a legitimate constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Hunting and target shooting make perfect sense. Home defense is a bit of a catch-all.

Statistics support that if someone breaks into a home at 3:00 a.m. and the owner grabs a .40 caliber handgun from a bedside table in the dark with sleep still in his or her eyes, about that last thing this person will hit is the intruder. A shell of that caliber is going right through the walls of a house, putting spouse and children at risk of injury.

Whereas the scatter-shot from a shotgun is considerably more likely to hit its intended target. Let’s be honest, you rack that slide in the dark and it’s universally recognizable as “back the hell up.”

Regardless, home defense is a viable excuse for gun ownership.

I more question the responsibility level of some individuals, the types of weapons available to the public, and how they are purchased.

There are roughly 270 million privately owned firearms in America – that’s 88.8 guns per every 100 people in the U.S, enough to arm nearly ever man, woman and child.

As medicated as our country is with alcohol, prescription drugs and illegal drugs, should we really have this many guns around?

Admittedly violent crime is down 20 percent since gun laws have gotten looser over the last decade, yet gun homicide rates haven’t improved, and serious but non-fatal gun injuries caused during assaults are up 20 percent over the same time period.

A study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is 19.5 percent, which is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 riches nations combined.

Among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths, and 87 percent of all children killed by guns are American children.

Three relatively simple changes would help decrease the ease with which irresponsible or unstable individuals are capable of obtaining firearms.

One, re-instate the assault weapons ban passed under President Clinton that expired in 2004. There is no reason anyone outside of law enforcement or the military should own or be able to purchase an assault rifle like the AR-15 used in Aurora.

Perhaps a compromise would be to license certain gun ranges to rent assault weapons for stationary and reactive target shooting. This would allow gun enthusiasts to continue their hobby.

We also don’t need to make riot gear available to the general public. Bulletproof vests and such by design are intended for use by the police and military only. If we as a society are that scared or feel our country is that un-safe we have a much bigger problem on our hands than not being able to purchase combat gear.

Secondly, close the gun show loophole. This allows people buying guns in all but seven states to evade background checks.

It was through gun shows that all four weapons used in the Columbine massacre were obtained; that perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing were able to sell stolen guns; and that the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, TX was able to stockpile 200 automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles.

Thirdly, require people first take a safety class and pass a test on that class in order to purchase a firearm.

A car is a deadly machine in the hands of anyone not capable of handling one. It’s universally accepted in America that people sit for a driver’s test in order to obtain a license.

A gun is lethally dangerous, and any responsible gun owner shouldn’t have a problem taking a gun safety class when they first purchase a firearm, or putting their children through the same course once they begin shooting.

This serves two purposes. One it makes sure everyone has a modicum of sense about how to operate and store firearms. Secondly, it ensures that people looking to purchase guns sit before trained professionals who teach these safety courses, which would allow a better chance for red flags to be raised about anyone with possible personality disorders.

It’s proactive and puts America on the offense instead of waiting around for the next attack.

It seems hypocritical to me that America so unabashedly placed our soldiers into harm’s way to pursue terrorists and limit weapons reaching their hands, yet when similar attempts are made domestically to safeguard our citizens from gun violence no one wants to take responsibility.

The same politicians who so eagerly sent our military into conflict cringe at the thought of taking on the NRA.

Americans end up being their own worst enemy. We feast upon each other, committing random acts of domestic terrorism through gun violence.

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether the NRA is a terrorist organization. It’s certainly arguable.

In 2010, over 30,000 people died from firearms in the United States.

It’s not possible to stop all these violent acts. Those who are predisposed to kill will find a way, but the level of damage can be mitigated.

Everyone can still have their guns, just take a class and pass a test. If anyone can’t figure out how to pass that bad boy we probably need to talk about whether that person should be driving much less owning a firearm.

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