It has been my honor on three occasions to be escorted around Great Britain with my good friend, John Churcher, speaking in various churches and for other progressive gatherings.
I love being in Great Britain but, in many ways, England is very much like the United States with a lot of the same products and social conventions; but we are just different enough that there are certain conversations that quite predictably come up in almost every place I visit where I get to meet a new audience.
One is that Brits insist that there is such a thing as “really good fish and chips.” I know my way around the restaurant industry, and I know that really good fish is served raw on a bit of rice, or it is lightly seared. OK fish is broiled or blackened, and fish that is about to go bad is battered and fried. Trust me, I’ve worked in a restaurant kitchen. And serving it in a sheet of newspaper doesn’t really change anything.
But the most common topic of conversation, after the obligatory chatting about whether our president is dumber than their prime minister, is America’s fixation on guns.
And they are normally quite polite about it, to the point that it seems like it is painfully difficult to form the question. “How can a country like America, so advanced in so many ways, not be able to get a handle on this problem?” There were 40,000-gun related deaths in the United States last year, more than 100,000 more received gunshot wounds. We are just three fourths of the way through the year now and it looks like we may get to 50,000 deaths this year. Literally more than the number of people who die annually in automobile accidents.
The English, who birthed our language and so much of our culture, while they were famous for cruel conquest and empire building in the past, these days, they have about 50 to 60 gun deaths per year. Do you hear me? Our gun deaths are not twice as bad as Great Britain, not ten times, not even a hundred times, folks, we have nearly a thousand times as many gun deaths in the USA as they have in Great Britain. Why?
It is true enough that we have a gun culture in America. Still, our depictions of the gun-slinging wild west days of America’s youth are grossly exaggerated. Then and now, media reports of high-profile events tend to make people think that these things happened all of the time. For example, Jesse James and his notorious “James Gang,” ran a 12 year-long crime spree of robberies which gave them nearly celebrity status. And they were violent but even still, in their 12 years on the run, seven members of their own gang were killed, and they may have killed ten or eleven people. By comparison, we have had more than 500 people killed in mass shootings this year and I would not be surprised if no one here could name a single incident.
The media gets interested in school shootings but during the pandemic, most schools have been closed and we have had much less school violence. No, much more than our heritage of the old west, gun violence in America is more of a modern phenomenon, and, it won’t surprise you that it is largely fueled by capitalism.
When I was young, 50 years ago, members of the National Rifle Association actually came into our schools to talk to us about gun safety and hunting. Their message was more cautionary than encouraging. But in the past few decades, the NRA became merged with the corporate interests of gun manufacturers whose only interest was to inspire people to buy more guns.
In order to sell more guns, they have worked the strings of political donations to make sure that legal impediments to buying guns were always more lax here than almost anywhere else in the world.
Our gun violence is directly related to one thing. . . the presence of hundreds of millions of guns. Now, there are some examples of countries with a high rate of gun ownership but a low rate of gun death but those are typically countries with a huge tradition of hunting and usually a more sparse society. But, for the most part, countries have reduced gun violence by placing many layers of restrictions on gun ownership.
I grew up around guns, but I don’t own a gun. I have known several retired military officers and none of them ever owned guns even though they had received years of training in the proper handling and care of weapons but, as three retired colonels have each explained to me: they did not own a gun because, now get this, “because guns are dangerous.”
So why do millions of Americans own several guns? As I have mentioned, the number one reason is because they are insanely available here as they are not anywhere else. But what is the motivation of the buyer? First and foremost, it is fear and insecurity. Sometimes that fear verges on paranoia. In fact, you can almost bet that nearly every seriously paranoid person in America owns several guns . . . that should be sobering, all on its own. But the insecurity issue is a huge driver.
You know, it is my job to tell the unvarnished truth in public . . . that is literally what I am paid to do, but there are some truths that don’t feel good. But, here we go:
In our culture, women are made to feel insecure about their age and appearance in ways that men just are not. The fashion industry alone is a $2.5 trillion dollar industry globally with nearly $400 billion of that in the USA.
We spend another $50 billion on makeup, a $100 billion on hair, and more than $16 billion on plastic surgery, most of which is breast implants. Women are often convinced to dislike their own bodies and so they compensate for their insecurities in ways that men just don’t… well, other than Donald Trump who evidently spends $70,000 a year on his hair, and he must have makeup delivered by the truck load. . . but he is the outlier here.
Men don’t get breast implants and few wear makeup, and just look at us! We’re clearly saving a fortune by spending next to nothing on our hair and fashion.
But what does a man do when he is insecure about his masculinity? How does a man compensate if he is afraid of minorities, criminals, immigrants, or if he is lacking something impressive in his underwear? Clearly, the more than $20 billion spent on guns ever year isn’t because of hunting.
Just as a side bar, Americans spent $17 billion on ammunition during the Obama presidency because, well, you may have noticed, Obama is black.
Insecurity drives the gun market and, unfortunately, men are very simple creatures. You tell them, “Carter is going to come for your guns . . . Clinton is going to come for your guns . . . Obama is going to come for your guns . . .and now, Biden is going to come for your guns . . .” Trump is stumping every day, talking about how these sadly insecure men need him to protect their 2nd amendment rights when no one has ever come for their guns.
Carter, Clinton, Obama, probably should have, but they didn’t and Biden sure won’t. That some American president is coming for your guns is the grown-up version of being so afraid of the monsters under your bed that you regularly wet your bed at night because you were afraid to get out of bed.
Now, that is harsh, I know, suggesting that gun owners are grown up anxiety riddled bed-wetters, but what do they have to say for themselves? If they are collecting heavy, assault styled rifles, with large round capacity magazines, they are not hunters. How do they explain why they are collecting these military styled weapons and all of this ammunition?
In 1989, as sales of guns of this sort started to rise, a spurious fake quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson started to make the rounds. It claimed that Jefferson said: "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government."
It seems a little crazy to think that private citizens, no matter how well armed, could actually stand up to the military power of the Unites States army, air force, or navy but, at least to some degree, it has been tried in such incidents as the Ruby Ridge shootout and the Cliven Bundy standoff in 2014. But may I ask you to consider this:
If all of these millions of guns, held by hundreds of thousands of people in case our government becomes tyrannical then why have they not done anything to liberate the children who are being held in cages along our southern border?
For three years now, in a lawless, insane, immoral federal policy of taking children, some so young that they were literally taken from their mother’s breast, to be locked up in cages . . . and this is done to scare immigrants into not coming to the United States . . . folks, this is not hypothetical, we have the transcripts of meetings in which Trump officials verbalized the methods and intents of taking children away from parents in order to slow border crossings.
What could be more immoral than that? Oh, and some of the kids have died from lack of medical care and some have died from lack of water and food. Many have been sexually assaulted!
So where is our “well-regulated militia” protecting us from government tyranny? Not once have any of these organized paranoid clans of bedwetters made an attempt to save these children so, please, let’s drop the pretense that this has something to do with liberty, democracy, freedom, or good government.
That is just a lie. This isn’t about virtue. It is about fear and insecurity and a degree of selfishness that I find difficult to imagine.
This sad little group of lost boys whose mothers didn’t love them enough to breast feed them, who dubbed themselves with the comic book title of the Wolverine Watchmen, actually were plotting to overthrow Michigan's government and kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Why, what would make them organize secret meetings and actually try to cook up such a horrifying plot? Because Gov. Whitmer, quite noticeably, a woman, keeps trying to put emergency measures in place to slow the spread of Covid-19. The state’s legislature and supreme court seem to be fighting her tooth and nail every step of the way, but this band of boy scout wannabes actually listed among their chief complaints for why they wanted to abduct and murder her is because she had closed down gyms. These spoiled brats wanted to overthrow their state government and commit murder to be able to get in their workouts.
For many years I have believed that the National Rifle Association was the enemy of reason in America. The pandemic has, however, added fuel to the fire of gun lust and brought out of the shadows more fringe groups for whom the NRA is not pro-gun enough. It is difficult to draw direct lines from this terrorist cell to their influences but one of the biggest groups to build a coalition of what NPR has called, “similarly paranoid, uneducated, frightened white people.” is the Minnesota Gun Rights group led by the Dorr brothers who believe that the NRA stands for “negotiating our rights away.”
Taken from the episode that originally aired in Oct 2017
Combining a paranoid, almost anarchist world view with the worst of Old Testament restrictions that called for stoning women who were unfaithful and killing men for being gay, all of which gets wrapped up in the now infamous Q-Anon movement which Trump simultaneously claims to know nothing about while loudly protesting that “someone has to put a stop to anti-fa” and his other imaginary boogie-men.
Aaron, Chris, and Ben Dorr, operating under several names on social media, have managed to amass a following of at least tens of thousands of sympathizers on Face Book from which they can, with almost no capital investment, encourage and spark the kinds of militia groups who were plotting to murder Governor Whitmer and they capitalize on President Trump’s racist and xenophobic tweets and statements.
They do not believe that there should be any gun laws. They believe that they should be able to own tanks, fighter jets, and shoulder fired missiles. Until the pandemic, I might have been inclined to believe that they were just someone’s crazy uncles who could spout off paranoid sounding lunacy but that they held no substantive threat. Among a population that doesn’t want to be told to wear a mask, stay home, or socially distance, these fringe groups are gaining an audience and a frightening amount of influence. A particular favorite among these folks is the Mossberg 590a1.
Last month, in Senate hearings, the FBI director, Christopher Wray, and the Division of Homeland Security director, Ken Cuccinelli, both warned lawmakers that white supremacists, anarchists and militia-style groups pose a serious threat to
Americans. Of course, the Trump administration has insisted that Wray and Cuccinelli tone down their rhetoric about these domestic terrorist groups because they are among his base of voters, but here is the thing:
These people are dangerous for one reason and one reason only and that is the ready availability of military style weapons and ammunition. Take that away from these hillbillies and they will have to cope with their insecurities in some other way; buy a corvette, take up collecting model trains, explore their inner drag queen and invest in plastic surgery, makeup, and sexy dresses (you had to know that I was going to work that back in), they could, for heaven’s sake, get some counseling. But the one thing they do not need is a lot of guns.
America has been held hostage for generations by elaborate and profit driven interpretations of the 2nd amendment. And, in answer to my British friends who reasonably keep asking about this matter, America has lacked the political will to fight against the tide of campaign donations from the gun lobby to do the one thing that makes sense, which is to make it illegal to sell or own assault styled rifles or large supplies of ammunition.
School shootings have not sufficiently forged our will to get this simple thing done and I doubt that the Proud Boys, the Wolverine Watchmen, or the Minnesota Gun Rights group will do it either, not even if they capture and kill a couple of Democratic governors. But folks, it is time for us to accept nothing less than sanity from our next federal government.
Trump gets two more months in office and after that we need to wash the White House with disinfectant and reinvest our government with something that looks and acts like responsible adult leadership.
I will, in this moment, put sensible gun control on the list of things to be accomplished in 2021. Terrorists, whether they are domestic or foreign, don’t get to run this country anymore.