You’ve seen Jaws. A hand chomped off mid-forearm sits in a tray in the coroner’s office, little Alex Kintner’s
blood tints the Amity Island surf, and Ben Gardner’s head plays peek-a-boo through a gash in his boat’s sunken hull, but a spineless mayor won’t do the right
thing because it might mean some people will lose money.
You know the scene. Roy Scheider, as police Chief Brody, and Richard Dreyfuss, as the animated oceanographer Matt Hooper, try to convince
Mayor Vaughn (portrayed with smarmy perfection by Murray Hamilton) to close the beaches. Brody pleads, “I mean we’ve already had three incidents, two people killed
inside of a week, and it’s gonna happen again.”
Mayor Vaughn retorts, “I don’t think you’re familiar with our problems,” to which Hooper shoots back: “I think
that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you in the ass!”
The mayor sidesteps the issue with an ad hominem attack. Hooper, laughing, turns to Brody and says: “That’s it. Goodbye.
I’m not going to waste my time arguing with a man who’s lining up to be a hot lunch!”
I often feel like Matt Hooper when I encounter the delusional arguments people make in defense of allowing over 300 million Americans easier
access to high-capacity semi-automatic pistols and rifles than a bottle of beer. Not one gun zealot sees the futility of simultaneously arming good and bad alike. Believing that their guns will keep them safe (even though they can’t tote their cannons around with them, for the most part), these
fear-addled saps are lining up to be another hot lunch.
The problem is, these fools and the gun industry’s Congressional shills are lining all of us up to be a hot lunch.
You can avoid becoming a great white’s meal by staying out of the ocean, but you can’t dodge the bullets flying over American
terra firma, bullets that can find you or your kid in a movie theater or a church, a grammar school or a high school or a college classroom, a political rally in the afternoon
or a nightclub at two in the morning.
Hooper knows sharks, I know guns. Weapons proficiency–not only being an expert marksman but knowing everything I could about
small-arms from around the world–was an integral part of my profession. For four years, I served as a U.S. Army infantry officer in the 25th Infantry Division. My first
assignment was rifle platoon leader with its deceptively simple job description: train a 32-man rifle platoon for war; lead them into combat if called upon.
I’ve shot thousands of rounds out of firearms ranging from the Colt M1911A1 .45 pistol through the Browning M2 .50 heavy machine gun.
Like every infantryman, my primary weapon was my rifle, at that time the Colt M16A1 and, later, A2 assault rifle.
As any soldier knows, a pistol or rifle–especially a military or military-style rifle–is made for one purpose: killing. Guns are
small machines used to punch holes in people and other animals in order to kill them. People get top billing since “anti-personnel” weapons, as military firearms are
euphemized, comprise the bulk of worldwide production. To wit, between seven and eight million M16 rifles have been made since the American military adopted it in the 1960s.
From 1936 to 1963, Winchester made 600,000 Model 70s, an incredibly popular bolt-action rifle but peanuts compared to the M16.
And then there’s the AR-15, the civilian, semi-automatic version of the M16 which, along with the Glock pistol, has become the choice
of professional psychopaths from coast to coast. The National Rifle Association, perpetually out-of-touch and lacking any human decency, dubbed it “America’s
Millions of AR-15s have been sold, including the one the Orlando lunatic Omar Mateen used to carry out the largest gun massacre in U.S.
history. Born in New York, Mateen exercised his Second Amendment rights (so zealously protected by the NRA) and bought his AR-15 completely legally–an American assault
weapon wielded by an American citizen used to kill fellow Americans . . . a Yankee Doodle do or die.
You see, gun makers and the NRA realized that all the paranoid, angry old white guys who can’t feel safe without fondling their guns
have started reaching their expiration dates. While small in number, this sad little demographic accounted for a big piece of the gun-sales pie; the same customers bought gun
after gun, stockpiling weapons as if engaged in an arms-race.
Happily for us, these troglodytes are taking the dirt naps they need, but for the rapacious vampires who run the gun industry, alarm bells
sounded. So some evil genius had the idea of marketing military-grade rifles to kids since the younger generation, suckled at the teat of violent video games (such as
“Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto”) and gun-drenched movies (such as anything out of Hollywood for the last 30 years) have seen these weapons since they wore diapers.
But who needs an assault rifle when you can pack the same killing power in the palm of your hand? That’s right folks, I’m
talking about the Glock 19 pistol. At 30 ounces, a Glock weighs slightly less than a quart of milk. But wait, no Glock is really complete without a 33-round extended magazine,
you know, like the one Jared Loughner used at a rally in Arizona for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Seung-Hui Cho bought his Glock legally too and used it to kill 30 people
in nine minutes at Virginia Tech. You can’t argue with those results.
Along with their cowardly shills in Congress, the NRA has methodically made the proliferation of assault rifles like the AR-15 and
high-capacity semi-auto handguns like the Glock 19 possible. And why?
The National Rifle Association and the lesser-known National Shooting Sports Foundation are trade organizations whose only mission is to
increase sales for their constituents, the American firearms manufacturers. Behind their red, white and blue bunting and meretricious arguments that firearm use somehow promotes
“life skills” and makes Americans safer is the NRA’s real bottom line: profits.
As for Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president and minister of propaganda, well, Joseph Goebbels couldn’t teach him a
thing. When New York’s Daily News–not exactly a bastion of liberal ideology–declared LaPierre “Craziest Man on Earth” at the conclusion
of its December 22, 2012 headline “Just 90 MINUTES after moment of silence for Newtown victims, vile NRA nut blames everyone and everything EXCEPT the GUNS,” then
you know just how craven a figure he is.
Not surprisingly, he’s a candy-ass with an eye on his bank account. For all his gun-worshipping bluster, LaPierre finagled a deferment
to avoid Vietnam lest he got a taste of the competition’s ordinance. According to a December 2012 Forbes article, LaPierre was paid $970,000 by his zookeepers for being an ardent defender of the Second Amendment and every American’s right to be gunned down in the milieu of their choice.
A cool million for being second-in-charge of a nonprofit organization, huh? Note to all you loyal, dues-paying NRA suckers: step
right this way and see the “egress.”
In the election for Most Evil Man in America, only Dick Cheney could furnish LaPierre with a contest. A friend of mine, also a former
infantryman and a Vietnam vet, characterized Cheney best as “a high-functioning sociopath.” Cheney, like LaPierre, is another super-patriot who wangled a whopping
five deferments between 1959 and 1967 to avoid risking his posterior to stop the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia. As this villain of a former Vice President infamously told The Washington Post,
“I had other priorities in the 60’s than military service.”
But I digress….
Yes, we are awash with guns in America. We are failing as a nation at the most rudimentary task of all societies, protecting our children.
And get your mind around this fact: every day in our country, 297 people will be shot, 89 of them will die.*
I know many who think it’s impossible to stem this murderous tide. And yet, guns are a human-made disaster, they’re not
earthquakes or tornadoes or droughts. However many pistols and rifles are out there, it’s still a finite number. We’re not helpless. We can make a difference and we must.
Here are some absolute no-brainer measures:
Universal mandatory background checks linked to law enforcement “No Sale” lists (i.e. terrorists and convicted felons)
maintained by the FBI, ATF, and all fifty State Police departments.
Reinstatement of the Assault Weapons Ban
Federal and state buy-back programs for handguns and assault weapons
Vigorous prosecution of “bad apple” gun dealers and “straw man” sales
Repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,
a despicably slick con giving gun makers blanket protection from liability
when crimes have been committed using their products and not surprisingly signed into law by an actual criminal, George W. Bush.
And support The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an organization dedicated to applying life-saving Brady background checks to all
gun sales and to prosecuting "Bad Apple" gun dealers (i.e. the 5% of all gun dealers who supply 90% of all guns used in crimes.)
According to a February 2013 Quinnipiac poll, background checks on all gun buyers are supported by 92 percent of voters, including 91
percent of gun-owning households. The NRA doesn’t even speak for its own members; that craven monster Wayne LaPierre spews his venomous lies solely to fatten his wallet
and those of his cronies on the NRA’s board of directors.
And there are even more hopeful trends. According to several ongoing long-term surveys (such as the General Social Survey and Gallup), rates
of gun ownership have declined across every demographic and region of the country for the last forty years-married, single, families with children and without, African-American,
Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, urban, suburban, rural, you name it. In other words, it's the same pea-brained lemmings who rush out again and again to stock up on Uzis and
bricks of 9mm ammo every time a politician left of Attila the Hun gains office.
And just as encouraging are the many other former soldiers who have decided to call out the gun lobby and proclaim with true authority that
America's fatal love affair with firearms is not something for which they fought. The strongest of these was the June 16, 2016 New York Times Op-Ed "Home Should Not Be a War Zone"
by retired Army General Stanley McChrystal-not exactly an armchair liberal who wouldn't know the difference between a Browning Hi-Power and a dramatic monolgue. A
former commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, McChrystal isn't saying anything different from me, but his take carries a hell of a lot of clout. I urge
you to read and share his piece.
I’m often filled with despair over our country’s puerile obsession with guns. Guns aren’t always for cowards, but cowards
are always for guns. Any real man who has been around firearms and truly understands what they can do has no interest in seeing them anywhere but in the hands of law enforcement and the military.
Despite atrocious odds, I take a long view, consoling myself with Gandhi’s famous quote:
When I despair, I remember that all through history, the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and
for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fail.
Think of it: always.
And I never waste my time arguing with a man who’s lining up to be a hot lunch.
(*Figures from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.)