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More than madness

15 December 2012

Friday was the last day of school before Summer vacation started in Peru. Picking up his two young daughters, Otto (IncaKolaNews) had an uncomfortable thought:

Just for a second I thought about those mass murder gun attacks that have happened sporadically in the USA and wondered if one could ever happen in my country of adoption, my city of dwelling or even in the school I was looking at right then and there.

Which did, and not simply because the mentally ill do not get the treatment they need(ditto Peru, and Mexico and a heck of a lot of other places), nor because — as Charles at Mercury Rising would have it, because of economic inequality and uncertainty in the future (again, a common condition in my part of the world), nor even because — “God was removed from the Public Schools” (something done here 1917. No…:

The United States of America doesn’t have the patent and exclusive rights to weirdos, idiots and dangerous minds. There are unstable people in the place where I live, but as in most any place their numbers are a tiny fraction of society as a whole. I’m quite sure that’s true for just about every corner of The USA as well, with 99.999% (add some more nines if you wish, not the point) of people being honest, law-abiding and caring people. But what The USA does offer is the opportunity for that tiny minority of unstable and potentially dangerous to get its hands on extremely effective machines of death. I’m not talking about handguns that can murder a single person as quickly as anything else ever invented by man, those machines and devices are available here and in most every country in the world if you’re determined enough to own one. This is about the type of weapon that today killed twenty children between the ages of six and ten years old, the same age range as the two people I picked up from school today, in their own school in a matter of seconds and without forgetting the seven (I believe, from latest news report) adults who also died at the hands of a single deranged and insane person.

Social inequality has been growing in this country since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994; we’ve had social unrest, mass internal migration to cities and general uncertainty about the future… all the ingredients for a rise in crime. But though it all, the murder rate (specifically the gun murder rate) was falling steadily… until the 13th of September 2004 when the U.S. “Federal Assault Weapons Ban” expired.  The murder rate did not just inch up, it shot up. While the proxy “war” on drugs that led some irresponsible U.S. authorities to try branding this country a “failed state” was a deciding factor in putting those assault weapons into play, nothing has been done by our “patron” in our “war” other than a few half-hearted minor prosecutions of low-level gun runners, some rhetoric and an ill-fated investigation by the United States to prevent it’s access to “machines of death” from spilling over into this country.

In supporting Lance Corporal Hammar, I am not questioning the validity of his arrest. His weapon may have been an antique, and not an automatic weapon, and legal even under the now defunct Assault Weapons Ban in the United States and “possibly” permissible in Mexico (under other circumstances), but it is a short-barreled shotgun IS an assault weapon, and recommended for such use by none other than the National Rifle Association .

If we go too far in our restrictions, so be it.  Despite  his wealthy family’s access to the media and politicians having made him a poster-boy for the  “blame Mexico” crowd, and despite his military disability making him a particularly sympathic figure, I believe his arrest was perfectly valid.

But that is not why I am willing to bring attention to his plight.

Padre Alejando Solalinde Guerra enraged the previous president when, after facing down death threats from the Zetas, he still forgave them their trespasses, as fellow victims… victims of a “corrupt, capitalist, sick and failed state”.  Hammar is a victim of a culture and an ingrained mindset that saw his gun as a good.  A culture that glorifies violence, that puts the buying and selling of products ahead of human rights, a sickness that puts goods before common goodness, and fails to control its own appetite for tools that permit people act out their worst obsessions.

Hammar… school children and teachers in Connecticut… 60,000 and more soldiers and civilians here… the Zetas… and, yes, Adam Lanza… are victims.  While with  Padre Solalinde, we may have compassion for the victims, and he’s a man who prays.  He is also one who goes to the streets and takes on his government, and like him, we need not — and should not — simply “open a dialogue” about victims, but demand  our victimizers be held accountable.


One Comment leave one →
  1. 16 December 2012 8:09 pm

    I actually came here in search of more information about the installation of Enrique Peña Nieto, Rich, but I would like to stay to cavil about your characterization of what I said:

    I think we all agree that this is a multifactorial problem. The lapse of the assault weapons ban was a factor leading (in the longer-term) to a rise both in total homicides and in gun-related deaths

    “Multifactorial” sounds a little more nuanced than “economic inequality and uncertainty in the future,” as you mischaracterize what I said. Indeed, I never used that phrase.

    Semi-automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines increase the lethality of each incident of violence. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, that they increase the attractiveness of violence and therefore increase the number of incidents. Thus far, I am in agreement with you.

    But the availability of weapons is not the whole story. Switzerland, for example, has universal gun ownership. According to Wikipedia, there are 420,000 assault rifles in circulation there. And, while they restrict ammunition, given the easy travel throughout Europe, one rather imagines it wouldn’t be too hard for a crazy to buy enough to do a Sandy Hook-style massacre. And it never happens!

    Why would that be? Well, there are evidently some other factors at work. I have suggested a number:

    1) not just economic uncertainty or inequality, which–as you say–many nations suffer from, but a drop in economic status. Americans have come to expect that if you worked hard and played by the rules, you would get ahead. When expectations are disrupted, people respond with anger, sometimes rationally, sometimes not. In the case of Sandy Hook, this was not a factor, but it almost certainly was a factor in the OKC bombing.

    2) Untreated mental illness. This seems to have been a major factor in the Sandy Hook shooting, and certainly was a major factor in Aurora and the Giffords shooting.

    3) A belief in American society that violence solves problems. This, I think, is the single largest factor in why American society (and, increasingly, Mexican society) has seen so much violence. Certainly the narcos weren’t above using violence, but it was when the government of Calderon decided to use violence as the means to suppress the drug trade that things really spiraled out of control. (And, yes, I read Valle-Jones and the data is noisy enough that one can’t say whether there was a significant change in exactly 2004/5 or whether it might have been 2006/7.

    It’s this latter point–the prevalence of the American belief that violence is the way to solve problems–that led me to focus on the industry.

    So, yes, an assault weapons ban would help to reduce the number of deaths from firearms and probably the number of deaths by any means. I’m not disagreeing with you. But I see this as a slightly more complicated issue. So please don’t mischaracterize what I said.

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