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Today's Top News
Another Gun Massacre on America's Crazy Road
Christmas shoppers in America's heartland have been gunned down for no reason - this time in an Omaha, Nebraska mall. This time the death tally appears to have been eight, plus the shooter. This time - as in all previous incidents -- America will likely learn nothing.
This time, as in most of the other incidents, the shooter was a depressed young male with easy access to a weapon.
This time, as in most of the others, the shooter was a white guy born in the U.S. of A.
This time, as in most of the others, he was not an illegal immigrant.
This time, as in most of the others, he was not a fanatical "Islamofascist" bent on "killing us."
Last February, a shooter killed five people at a shopping mall in Salt Lake City. Several decades ago, August 1, 1966 to be exact, Charles Joseph Whitman, a student at the University of Texas at Austin killed fourteen victims in what now seems to have been the launch of national "contest" of sorts to see which unstable male shooters can kill the most innocent victims with the greatest firepower. (So far, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols get the "prize" for the most civilians killed by angry white guys -- but they had to resort to a bomb to earn it).
There are more firearms distributed among the populace in this country than there are people. That makes upwards of 300 million weapons, an unknown number of which are accessible by vengeful, angry, distraught or unbalanced native-born Americans. The Omaha mall shooter was just like hundreds of thousands -- maybe more -- other young males with guns who have psychological, family, drug, social adjustment, employment or other problems. The potential for more tragedies of this nature occurring in the United States during the next few years is limitless.
Mass domestic slaughter by firearm (automatic or otherwise) is a growth industry. With the political clout of the National Rifle Association and its distorted interpretation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, plus the adherence by millions of Americans to the mythology of the gun as the ultimate instrument of self-protection, there is no practical way to reduce the number of firearms, or to significantly reduce their lethality (such as by regulating ammunition or controlling the distribution of automatic weapons).
Thanks largely to Republican control of the White House and Congress for most of the last seven years, that political battle has been waged repeatedly - and lost.
In the aftermath of every gun slaughter of innocents in the United States, there follow the calls for prayer; the soul-searching; the reminders of the importance of moving on; the appeals to love each other more -- and the appeals to love each other less by locking every miscreant up and throwing away the key; the cascade of semi-scholarly articles instructing us how to spot the danger signals in an unhappy person who seems ready to explode; the funding demands for more teen-age counseling and crisis centers; a demand for an increase in the use of metal detectors and other security devices; the pro-gun lobby's insistence that "guns don't kill people, people kill people"; the proposals that everybody be allowed to arm themselves in public to facilitate shooting future shooters before they shoot too many victims.
Finally, after each gun massacre, there follow the proposals for stricter gun control -- proposals which will be strangled or shot in their legislative cribs.
In 1996, when Australia experienced a mass slaughter of thirty-five innocents by a deranged person with an arsenal of firearms at Port Arthur, Tasmania, the Australian government responded by cracking down heavily on gun ownership and distribution.
Many foreigners from perfectly normal countries believe we're nuts for allowing so much firepower to remain in the hands of so many citizens.
Many, maybe most, Americans don't care what foreigners think. Barring a political earthquake or miraculous national epiphany, nothing will change to stop the slaughter of American victims by American shooters.
Robert S. Rivkin, author of GI Rights and Army Justice, is a San-Francisco-based writer and lawyer.