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Life Arts    H3'ed 2/13/13

The Stronger the Public Outrage After Bloodshed, The Greater the Gun Surge

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And the envelope, please. Winner of the elbows down, muzzle up award for the Most Predatory, Most Immunized American Industry . . . yes, consumer firearms. After all, corporate raiders like Romney limit plundering to jobs, tax loopholes, pensions, and businesses with credit lines. Most kindergarteners need not fear them, unless parents were outsourced or pensions stripped. Not so the firearms industry, playing both ends against the middle by leveraging mass shootings into paranoia about dire, looming reforms, spurring a sale surge unanticipated before the calamity.

Hats off to any business model that capitalizes on the direct, if criminal execution of products they tout for immense power and range. Some sharpshooting devices use computer-guided scopes that turn amateurs into top snipers, firing off armor-piecing ammo dangerous a mile away. Unlike corporate predators, arms makers boast blanket immunity against all consequences, whether from their choice of retailers, how its shadiest operators do business, the destination (say, Mexican drug lords), or all subsequent domestic carnage. No doubt, they deserve special treatment for doing a public service, as their PR proclaims: "guns make us safe." Of course we'd have more than anecdotal assertions were Congress to reverse its NRA-driven prohibition against federal agencies publicizing the mounds of key gun/crime statistics they dutifully amass each year.   

Tragic Opera in Full Sway

And the cycle of violence is in full sway, as Sandy Hook terror hangs in the air, inciting both sustained revulsion and chatter by Democrats on nominal "gun control" they avoided like the plague. Curiously, however, the louder the reform demands, the more overwrought the lobbyist-gun propaganda. Why, NRA gun owners end up as victims, too, punished for exercising their rights.   And positions are both reversed and not open to debate, whether obvious background checks (the NRA once supported) or armed school guards (which it once fiercely opposed). In no time, gun advocates clamor that all registration intrusions mandate government control, presaging punitive taxation, outright bans, even the horror of confiscation. This commotion from dog whistles and blatant sirens drives the now inadequately-armed NRA members rushing to clear shelves of any weapon in the media bullseye.

Until we appreciate the dynamic circle of violence here, plus move beyond simply demonizing self-interest parties, don't expect more than marginal change. Until we widen the scope beyond the virtually impossible task of "gun control" (with 300 million home firearms), what are the chances to balance the rights of a vociferous minority against the human rights of a majority, especially innocent children? Of course, if more guns actually made us safer, why isn't America a nearly violence-free mecca?

Our "gun violence problem" thus transcends guns alone. Since trained hunters and gun veterans conscious of safety are presumably stocked up, tossing millions more handguns into the fray only arms the less expert, less safety-conscious users. Plus, if we don't check varieties of widespread gun trafficking -- and how to reduce criminal exchanges -- rest assured guns will "trickle down" to the unstable agents of social disorder, like militant secessionists or Confederates replaying the Civil War.

Unwanted Exceptionalism

Two straightforward questions arise: why is this industry shielded from liability from any consequences of gunplay? Second, how do we break up this eerie dance of death by gun opponents and owners alike that ends up ironically serving arms industry growth? Other industries profit from disasters, but few (excluding military suppliers) cause the results. Construction firms need not drum up hurricanes to keep busy for years afterwards. Security firms need not commit crimes to swell anxiety and demand. What other industry, crudely speaking, offers a superior Carnage to Sales Ratio? And yet, with Orwellian duplicity, the nastier, more armed the "bad guy," the more fully-armed must be the "good guy."

What food, drink, or tobacco commodity would last ten minutes if inextricably linked to fatalities or permanent disability? When else is the answer to something unsafe more of the same? Any imputation that a product imperils the general welfare, from candy to cabbage, or cars to baby carriages, and bingo, immediate recall. Any snack food tied to a fraction of the accidental handgun deaths would be confiscated and incinerated. Our "gun culture problem" worsens because firearms have special status not given foodstuffs. It's easier to recall a dangerous toy gun than a defective real one.

Plus, even guilt by association that shreds brand names leaves weaponry unfazed, sometimes making them more prized. If crazed terrorists only drove red Hummers into schoolrooms, how great would the negative sales be? If any named product, from cell phones to soft drinks, was incessantly linked to secessionist militias, imagine the PR pushback, pooh-poohing "mere coincidence." When cigarettes only smelled of death and disease, they grew filters to accommodate addictive, terrified smokers. In short, other products that damage bodies lose credibility and face fallout. Why are guns so special, especially handguns whose home access facilitates thousands of suicides, the highest national category for gun deaths?

Let's make it simple: life vs. death

Perhaps the gun debate will mature, shedding simplistic Second Amendment bombast, even reach this core equation: yes, gun owners have rights but not so absolute to violate the higher rights of children to survive childhood. When do we reverse the NRA's veto on gun death research, so we can move from "gun control" to proposals for "violence reduction?" Certainly, let's address violent games and movies, explaining in detail why a worldwide phenomenon doesn't reproduce our mortality rates anywhere else. And more mental health monitoring, by all means. 

And when do we talk handguns, causing over 90% of gun violence? Assault rifles remain a drop in the statistical bucket, but that bucket fills evermore with innocent blood. As with other daunting moral conundrums, like abortion, the issue does not distill into absolute commandments or Constitutional fixations, but how to balance the legal right of self-defense (or hunting and practice shooting) against that other more valuable, more universal human right called staying alive.

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For a decade, Robert S. Becker's rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, messaging and frameworks, now featured author at OpEdNews, Nation of Change and RSN. He appears regularly at Dissident Voice, with credits (more...)

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