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Guns Don't Kill--Lobbyists Do: Why Sandy Hook Was Not a Wakeup Call

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Message Rich Herschlag
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I've been shot at twice. When I was fourteen, I was on my paper route on a sunny September Sunday afternoon in Queens when a shot whistled by my left ear. As I began running I knew the shot came from behind and above, probably from a window way up in one of the high-rises across the street. By the time I made that assessment another shot had sailed over my head. Then a third hit me in the left shoulder.

I was a savvy kid. The shot felt like a ballpoint pen stabbed about a quarter inch deep into my shoulder blade, and I was pretty sure it was a high-powered BB rifle rather than one of the .22s I had practiced with on a rifle range in sleepaway camp. As I raced down the block, another shot soared to my left. I saw that a quick right-hand turn and another short, mad dash would put me behind an apartment building and out of harm's way.

But then I did something that made sense to me and probably only to me. I stopped suddenly--a half dozen copies of the Sunday Daily News still in my satchel--looked up toward approximately where the shots originated, stared coldly, and with my free hand gave the sniper the middle finger. Another shot whistled by. I spun and disappeared behind the nearby building.

When I was a thirty-one year old borough engineer, I was sent up to Morningside Heights in Manhattan to look at a vacant six-story apartment building at risk of collapse. As I walked gingerly around scrub bushes in the rear yard and focused on the step-crack patterns in the brick around the windows, a shot rang out, above and to my left. I wheeled around and did a 4.8 forty-yard dash to the back of the lot, into the adjacent yard, through an open gate and into the street. There was no look back or middle finger. This was a real gun, and I had a wife and baby girl at home.

Today I'm fifty and experience the terror and anger of being used for target practice every time I learn of an innocent man, woman or kindergartner shot, which is every day.

I don't give a damn about the Second Amendment. It is a lethal, misinterpreted anachronism. It is a blight on American life. The Second Amendment has been elevated to the status of a Commandment, while the real Commandments have long since been discarded like the Second Amendment should have been. Adultery? Check out ashleymadison.com. Coveting what is thy neighbor's? Bank of America can foreclose on your home illegally, get caught, and pay a five hundred dollar fine. Murder? Four thousand have been committed on US soil since Sandy Hook . Make that four thousand and one.

But through it all, the Second Amendment remains intact. The Second Amendment towers above any Commandment or any other Amendment. It is the stem cell of all irrational fundamentalist beliefs in a nation full of mental backwoods and numb cul-de-sacs.

I have a simple message for the Mitch McConnells, Jeff Flakes, and Jim Inhofes who pollute the halls of Congress and the Neanderthals who put them there. You and the gun lobby that controls your bullet-sized minds have made the Constitution a suicide pact. Suicide is what I consider every time I hear your drivel about protection from tyranny by the government. If the government ever really wanted to seize your trailer and satellite dish, they could send a drone to vaporize you midway through American Chopper. They could send a team of SEALs under cover of night and dispatch you quickly to that great gun show in the sky. Ask Osama bin Laden.

Are they coming for your guns? No, they are not, and that's a shame. I would love to see it, except for the fact that I really do not enjoy bloodshed--even yours--and even though I am certain you would enjoy mine. Thing is, you want them to come for your guns. You would relish that Alamo moment. It would feed your long-running, ludicrous, self-indulgent fantasy. You know the fantasy I'm talking about--the one where you and your Bushmaster Carbon 15 Centerfire assault rifle secure an important place in history.

After a failure to launch in Congress, we are well past respectful debate. I have no respect for the obstructionists. You are interested in protecting the rights of random snipers who take out paperboys and borough engineers. You have oceans of blood on your hands and seek oceans more. You talk about teachers and first-graders and nurses and bus drivers and fast-food workers and Apple Store salespersons all packing heat to fulfill your sick OK-Corral-Call-of-Duty paradigm. You propose treating cancer with sugar and dioxin.

The more lethal and massacre-worthy the weapon, the more you have to have it. Plutonium-tipped bullets are not far off, and you will fight to someone else's death to ensure they are available on the internet in 30-round clips without a background check to schizophrenic psych ward escapees looking to settle a score at Toys R Us.

Sandy Hook served one purpose only--to underscore for future historians how bloodthirsty early 21 st century America really was. We live vicariously in a closed-loop Rambo movie. We defend gun ownership for reasons analogous to our defense of sub-fifteen percent federal tax rates for Bain Capital partners. Because you never know when you're going to make a few million dollars or get the urge to take out a few Muslims at a town hall meeting.

Sandy Hook was not a wakeup call. The truly brain-dead cannot be awoken. Columbine was a slumber party. We dozed through Virginia Tech. The Gabby Giffords massacre left us groggy. Aurora was a brief intermission. As a nation, we know how to hit the snooze button until the alarm wears off.

What would it take to really wake us up? Sadly, it could not be done. Say we had a baseball stadium full of three-year-olds. And say a disgruntled hedge fund executive entered from the centerfield gate with a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher and got off a few dozen missiles killing around twenty thousand toddlers before finally being subdued by the grounds crew. Wayne LaPierre would propose Missile Interceptor Day at the ballpark. And we would listen.




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Rich Herschlag's most recent book, "Punk Rock Blitzkrieg" (Touchstone, 2015), was written with Marky Ramone and is the legendary drummer's outrageous ultimate inside look at the beginnings of punk rock and the evolution of the seminal band that (more...)

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