American Exceptionalism at its worst. When will this stop?
I was out with a friend yesterday afternoon. When I returned I switched the TV on and heard the horrific news: 14 children in the 2nd 3rd and 4th grades and one teacher were murdered at a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. As my headline indicates, as of this writing, the toll is now 19 students and two teachers killed. Many more are in hospitals in critical condition, while the survivors will be traumatized for the rest of their lives.
The gunman, apparently wearing some sort of body armor, used two AR-type military style rifles in the massacre. He was so heavily armed and self-protected that he overwhelmed the school’s safety officer and the first policemen arriving at the scene. A heavily armed police tactical team had to be called in to stop the rampage, killing the shooter in the process.
This is another American tragedy. And yes, this is a uniquely American event. When is enough, enough?
Apparently not until our politicians get some backbone and write some serious gun control laws. Of course, the politicians I’m talking about are mostly Republican. But don’t take my word for it. Take the words of the Dallas Morning News in today’s editorial.
AFTER UVALDE SHOOTING WILL AMERICANS SAY ENOUGH?
“Every leading Republican in this state has made permissive gun access a political cause while doing precious little or actively undermining efforts to enforce existing regulation…It is time to re-enact the restrictions in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that were so foolishly permitted to expire. It is time to limit high-capacity magazines…”
Or take the words of Republican Texas senator Ted Cruz right after the massacre that took place in a town in his state. Beyond his knee-jerk “thoughts and prayers,” he said this,
“When there’s a murderer of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it, you see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens.”
He also called, not for more gun control laws but for the “need to devote far more law enforcement resources to stopping violent criminals preventing these kinds of absolute acts of evil.”
Or take the words of Texas Republican Attorney General, Ken Paxton, who like his state’s junior senator said nothing about gun control but opined,
“…one way to prevent mass shootings would be to make it more difficult for people even to get in that point of entry by having teachers and other administrators who have gone through training and who are armed.”
Or take the words of Texas Republican governor, Greg Abbott who tweeted in 2015,
“I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans.”
Of course, that Abbott tweet was seven years ago. But do you think he’s changed? Based on the headline in a Houston Chronicle editorial today, don’t bet on it:
Abbott says ‘never again’ after Uvalde school massacre. Don’t fall for it, Texans.
Compare all those GOP statements and words with Connecticut Democratic senator Chris Murphy’s speech on the floor of the Senate last night.
“What are we doing? I’m here on this floor to beg — to literally get down on my hands and knees — to beg my colleagues. Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.”
Or President Biden’s words who got off Air Force One after a trip to Asia to face another crisis not of his doing.
“It is time to turn this pain to the action. For every parent, every citizen of this country. We have to make it clear to every elected official in this country: it’s time to act. It’s time for those who obstruct or delay or blocked the common sense gun laws – we need to let you know that we will not forget…Why? Why are we willing to live with this carnage? Why do we keep letting this happen? The gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons, which make them the most and largest profit. For God’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry. Where in God’s name is our backbone?”
Or Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr in his pre-game presser in Dallas.
But is this really uniquely American?
Listen to President Biden in that same speech.
“I just got off my trip from Asia, meeting with Asian leaders, and I learned of this while I was on the aircraft. And what struck me on that 17-hour flight — what struck me was these kinds of mass shootings rarely happen anywhere else in the world. Why? They have mental health problems. They have domestic disputes in other countries. They have people who are lost. But these kinds of mass shootings never happen with the kind of frequency that they happen in America. Why?“
If you don’t believe or trust Biden, a look at these findings might convince you of America’s uniqueness when it comes to guns and mass murders.
Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankfore, a professor at the University of Alabama.
Adjusted for population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people. Yemen has the world’s second-highest rate of gun ownership after the United States.
And remember, that was a 2015 study. It’s only gotten worse since then.
Or take a look at this study, from 2017 which compares the U.S. to other countries in terms of violent gun deaths.
Uniquely American? Or perhaps a better description is the one Americans are proud of using to set us apart from the rest of the world – “American Exceptionalism.”
Whatever term you use, the bottom line is the same. We are disgracefully different. As some of the headlines around the country said: “Enough!”
Before I go, I have a confession to make about what I was doing yesterday afternoon with my friend.
I went to a shooting range.
Let me explain.
My friend, a man who is socially, economically and ethnically virtually identical to me has for months asked me if I’d like to join him when he goes to the shooting range. My friend is a recreational shooter. His guns are not for protection; he simply likes the challenge of shooting at a target and the sense of accomplishment when he shoots well. I thought it might be an interesting experience, so I said yes.
As we were signing in to shooting lane #3, it was impossible to disregard the overwhelming booms coming from inside the range. In fact, I jumped every time one of the shooters squeezed the trigger on some automatic “long gun”…I later found out the long gun he was using was an AR-type, a cousin of the ubiquitous and totally unnecessary for civilian use AR-15 military style assault rifles and similar to the ones the Uvalde shooter used. As I jumped, I thought about those booms when a mass shooting is taking place and how the booms must increase the fright and trauma, as if the prospect of imminent death wasn’t enough. Little did I know how prescient that thought would be.
My friend brought his three legal, licensed hand guns. There’s no way I’ll remember what their names were but one used .22 caliber ammo, another .38 caliber and the third, 9mm ammo. We shot at targets, the kind held up by clothespins on a pulley device. The distance to these clothes-pinned targets was probably 20-30 feet. Amazingly, I did pretty well. Amazing, if for no other reason it that this was the first time I had actually shot a gun since Navy Officer Candidate School in 1967!
I discovered that target practice is actually fun. There is a certain satisfaction when you aim for a spot and actually hit it (or come close to hitting it). Guns however, at least the types that most of the people in the other lanes were using were not so much fun. Bigger, heavier, more powerful handguns were in abundance around me. Men (and women) practicing with assault rifles occupied at least half the lanes. The “boom-boom-booms,” even with the noise suppressing ear muffs my friend provided, made me jump each and every time.
And then I got home and watched the latest American gun massacre. One in which 19 elementary school students and two teachers in a Texas town went off to school on a Tuesday morning and never returned home. They were shot down, for no apparent reason on the same day I was at a shooting range, practicing with three different, but powerful hand guns.
When a semi-automatic hand gun or rifle fires a round, the used shell casing is ejected. I picked up one of the AR-something casings that had been ejected and landed on the floor. It was bigger than the ammo I was shooting. But I was told that although the casing is bigger, the bullet, the projectile itself, is about the same size as the ones I was shooting. Why? Because that bigger casing allows for more gun powder. More gun powder means more energy, more power. More power means more efficient killing.
I’m very fond of my friend. He’s also a excellent nature and landscape photographer. I think the next time I go out shooting with him, it will be with our cameras, not with his guns.