The American Disease

Ed Raymond

I was horrified by the mass murder of 20 first graders and six school employees at Sandy Hook Elementary, but I wasn’t at all surprised. I have written over 1,100 weekly columns over the last 20 years, and I estimate that at least 50 of them have been about the National Rifle Association and its virulent connection to the great American disease, our violent society. Evidently facts don’t matter to the NRA and its financial and political supporters, but I need to repeat some to establish the fact that our violent gun society has a murder rate 15 times that of other wealthy countries. We murder 11,000 with firearms each year, kill about 20,000 others by suicide and accidents, and wound over 70,000 with bullets.
   I did not create the phrase “the American disease.” A lone gunman killed 35 Australians and wounded 23 in 1996. Within weeks the government passed laws virtually banning all semi-automatic assault weapons and shotguns, improved their licensing procedures, and financed amnesty and buyback programs for over 600,000 semi-automatic weapons. This was accomplished quickly because, as Prime Minister John Howard said, “We don’t want the American disease imported into Australia.”
   Why did we have over 30,000 gun deaths in 2008 while Japan had only eleven? Isn’t it time we figured out why? Personally, I don’t think the NRA and the gun lobby will move an inch from an ideology that says the more guns we have, the safer we will be. If 300 million guns in the U.S. can’t keep us safe, let’s arm all school employees and try 400 million! The NRA leadership is in its lobby hidey-hole waiting to pounce with its interpretation of facts. But some of its henchmen are beginning to crawl out of their holes, yelling it’s the fault of our mental illness programs—and that the solution for protecting the schools is to arm every classroom teacher with a Glock and the principal and secretaries with Bushmasters.

How Many Dead First
Graders Will It Take?

   If 20 dead first graders won’t force us to change our violent gun culture, would 100? Or 300? We don’t seem to have much regard for our children anyway. We don’t protect them from semi-automatic weapons with 100-round drum magazines. We lead the civilized world with child poverty, and underfund children’s health programs so that they can’t handle increasing rates of asthma and diabetes. Neither do we adequately fund education facilities in population centers.
   What would happen if adult groups were targeted? What if we lost 26 Wall Street banksters in a mass murder around the Wall Street Bull? What if we had a mass murder of 26 members of the Business Roundtable at the Four Seasons? What if we had a mass slaying of 26 Roman Catholic bishops at their annual conference in D.C.? What if 26 members of the Fargo Rotary Club were murdered in 26 seconds at their weekly meeting? What if 26 members of the NRA executive staff and board members were killed in 13 seconds at their annual meeting? What scares me is that I have no idea whether these deaths would make any difference either.
   I am not anti-gun, I am anti-insanity. I have firearms and have hunted with rifle and shotgun when young. Further, I have firearm experience not many have had. In the Marine Corps I commanded a heavy machinegun platoon and later a Marine Corps rifle company. I have trained with and fired semi-automatic pistols and rifles, fully automatic .30 caliber light and heavy machine guns, .50 caliber machineguns, 60 mm. mortars, 81 mm. mortars, 4.2 mortars, 105 artillery pieces, and even a few flame throwers.

Are We Dealing
With Psychopaths
In The Gun Culture?

   A psychopath is a person with a brain disorder who lacks a conscience. If you are sane and have a conscience, you have regard for your fellow human beings. If you lack one, you are callous, lie with impunity, and are ruthless. As Martha Stout, one expert in the field, says, “The reality is... no one matters to a psychopath. In reality, a touch of psychopathy would mean a malignant streak of brutality, oiliness, predatory single-mindedness, callousness, carelessness, exclusive self-involvement, and clinical impulsivity.” If you have ever watched Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice-president of the NRA, give a speech, several of these traits are evident. Stout adds, “The majority of psychopaths are nonviolent... but some are psychopathic serial killers. Psychopathy is a profound and tragic disorder, one for which, at present, there is no cure.”
    I have lived through the period when loosely organized “militias” across the country were “snoopin’ and poopin’” in the woods preparing to fight, as Mollie Ivins would say, the “guvinment.” These were the days of Timothy McVeigh of the Christian Identity and fertilizer bombs, the deadly accuracy of Gordon Kahl, Ruby Ridge, Waco and the Branch Davidians, and the Montana Freemen. These “forces” were psychopathic because they had the single-mindedness and callousness to kill other human beings, refusing to believe they could challenge their government with ideas instead of guns. Some prayed while they killed.
   When the Constitution was approved, it was musket versus musket in the woods and towns. Armies marched against the enemy in neat rows with overpowering numbers. Muskets always could pick off a few. But fumbling for a ramrod, a powder bag, and a round took over a minute, so the neat row could march on. A Bushmaster could have wiped out the neat row in seconds. Today “patriots” may have Bushmasters, but the government has tanks, Blackhawk attack helicopters, and aircraft carriers if needed. The idea of armed revolution against the “guvinment” is not only pathological, it is suicidal and stupid.
  It is absolutely essential that our government determine what technology citizens should have at their disposal for hunting, shooting sports, and personal protection. Is a .50 caliber spotting or sniper rifle proper technology for the guy in the middle of your block? Does a citizen need an armor-piercing round that can be accurate at a mile and go through an engine block? How about a 60 mm. mortar so you can shoot over the hill? Does a citizen need cop-killer bullets and those that “mush up” to mangle organs?

Are Bullet Holes A
Pre-Existing Condition
In This Country?

   William Myers of St. Paul defined one of our really serious health problems in a letter to the Star Tribune: “We have a serious public health problem in the United States. I define it as too many bullet holes in people.” I have a question for those who support the NRA position on guns. What is the total cost projected to treat the wounds of the 70,000 people each year who don’t die from wounds they suffer when they are shot? The 20 school children killed in Sandy Hook School each suffered multiple gunshot wounds. A pathologist conducting the autopsies reported that one child was hit eleven times. What does a first grader weigh? Perhaps 45 pounds? What happens when eleven bullets designed to break up bones and flesh hit a 45-pound body fired from a weapon with a very high muzzle velocity? No wonder the police told the surviving students and adults to close their eyes as they were led from the building. Bullets are designed to wound and kill. In combat, one enemy dead doesn’t require any medical care. But one wounded may require two or three other soldiers to treat him and to save him from further damage.
   There were 58 wounded in the mass killing at Aurora. The total cost of the 58 will not be totaled until they all die. A few were treated and released the night of the shooting. Some remained in hospitals for months. A few are still hospitalized. Some have been permanently disabled and will require millions of dollars to survive for any length of time. One man suffered a severed spine and has to be on a ventilator permanently. Spleens, kidneys, genitals, guts, brains, and other organs were damaged beyond repair. Shattered bones put victims in wheelchairs. Five million dollars were collected in the first two months for use by the wounded. It was spent quickly. The Congressional Budget Office should be required to estimate the lifelong costs of the wounded of the Aurora killing. The American people and the gun lobby have to know what guns are costing us. No doubt Aurora will cost us many millions for the next half century. We need to have an accurate estimate. Among the 23 most populous high-income nations, we have 80 percent of the firearm deaths. We have had over one million citizens killed by guns in the last 40 years, and the wounded haven’t even been counted. After the CBO comes up with the cost estimate for Aurora, it can start figuring the cost for the 70,000 wounded in 2012. Such an estimate would be in the billions of dollars.

Just What Was
Adam Lanza’s
Mother Thinking?

  In my career as a school principal and district administrator, I have had to deal with many parents, some much like Mr. and Mrs. Peter Lanza. Maybe someday the dots of their lives and their family will be connected, but with the information I have at this time, nothing seems to make sense. What assistance did they seek for Adam when as a young child he demonstrated unusual behavior, including anti-social body language? Adam’s father was a $500,000-a-year big wheel in the General Electric tax department. Adam’s mother, a stockbroker successful enough to get her husband through college, was called “very intelligent” by the firm that handled her divorce four years ago. Adam was 16 at the time.
   I may be making a quick judgment in this case, but if you have a child who is very bright but can’t look anybody in the eye, one who does not feel pain if he burns or hurts himself, one who is such a problem he must be home-schooled because he doesn’t react well in a school classroom, why didn’t you continue to pursue professional help for him? Why didn’t you put him in a special school for autistic children? Those schools are expensive, but you could have  afforded it five times over. Peter, your ex-husband, paid you $289,800 in 2012. Don’t tell me Connecticut, one of the richest states, does not offer such services for mentally challenged students.
    Taking a child with those social and personal handicaps to shooting ranges so he could learn how to shoot a Bushmaster? Collecting and purchasing semi-automatic weapons because you are some kind of survivalist paranoid about an economic disaster? My God, Nancy Lanza, you sealed your own fate with the weapons you were amassing to survive.

Is An Armed Society
A Polite Society?

   LaPierre of the NRA says more guns equal more safety—and “an armed society is a polite society.” Brandishing semi-automatics on Main Street makes people more polite? Does such a polite society create more civility? Perhaps an OK Corral séance with Doc Holliday, the Earps, the Clantons, and the McLaurys would settle this once and for all.
  I see a few NRA stalwarts are finally coming out of their bunkers and saying they are willing to have armed guards in every school if they can lovingly cradle semi-automatic assault rifles that can fire a 100-round drum of bullets every 60 seconds.
  Most people who have had military training and have experienced combat understand what firearms can do. They have passed tests. But when a Bushmaster is advertised as a “manhood gun,” it appeals to adolescent wannabe Rambo-Earp-Clanton types who need a black, folding stock, semi-automatic rifle with flash suppressor that looks like the M-16. Evidently that rifle must serve the same purpose as those bottles of stuff that make you five inches longer and an inch wider.
   With our current politicians occupying toll booths in the Best Congress Money Can Buy, I see little hope that significant action will be taken against the gun culture. We have a group of politicians who cower before a paranoid, psychopathic NRA hierarchy supported by arms companies that go to the bank after each mass killing. This is the same crowd that sees UN black helicopters just over the horizon supporting blue-helmeted thugs coming to take our golf courses away.