Sunday, September 1, 2019

Hostages of lobbyists and hobbyists

           The moment cops took down the Odessa gunman, the clock started ticking toward the next mass shooting.

            It will happen. Count on it. Just as you can count on Republicans in Washington and in red statehouses, like the red-granite one in Texas, to do nothing about it.

            Cowardly, they will say things like, "We need to do more about mental health," then do nothing.

            Cowardly, they will point to video games, knowing that no influence can tie a dangerous mind in knots in 2019 like the nightly news.

            They will not acknowledge that far from a mental health issue, this is a syndrome of heavily armed copy cats and trend-surfers. Change the trend -- make it more difficult for them to kill en masse -- and we'll have less surfing, and less suffering.

            Don't believe this? Read Louis Klarevas' "Rampage Nation." The book makes a convincing case that strategic measures aimed at mass-killing tools indeed save lives. They did in this country with the assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004 -- at the behest of Republicans, naturally.

            Over its 10-year life span, the law reduced mass killings. Indeed, the first four years saw zero mass shootings. The 10-year duration of the ban saw 12.

            The next 10 years? Try 34, with 302 dead. Oh, well. As the gun lobby likes to say, "That's the price of freedom."

            Freedom for what? Is a high-capacity military-style weapon something civilians need in any way? You joke.

            This side of the military and law enforcement, these weapons are the province of (1) hobbyists, and (2) people who are dangers to society.

            In Erik Larson's book "Lethal Passage," about the commerce and easy flow of mass-murdering machines, Larson asked around for any plausible need one might have for a 100-round magazine. The answer: So as not to have to reload on the firing range.

            When Colorado banned magazines larger than 15 rounds following the horrific Aurora theater shootings, the gun lobby made the matter into an Italian opera. Imagine if your home is besieged by 50 intruders at once, sang the gun hobbyists. What will you do?

            We must leave it up to them to imagine. However, we know what one intruder did. When Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and started killing toddlers, he had to pause to insert a new magazine into his AR-15. Several children scrambled to safety. They are alive only because of the size of his magazine.

            In Aurora, by contrast, gunman James Holmes came with a 100-round magazine. His AR-15 sprayed 65 rounds in mere seconds.

            Klarevas directs much of his attention to the AR-15, the weapon of choice for so many mass killers.

            A hunter's friend? Be serious. Defender of the homestead? Shotguns have done that for centuries. Klarevas defers to one gun enthusiast to explain the AR-15's function in civilian hands: To serve at the benefit of posers, as explained this way by an unnamed third party:

            "Much of what's 'fun' about shooting an assault weapon is that it feels masculine; it's an implicit expression of male sexuality."

             The same applies, one might assert, to the male-dominated "open carry" phenomenon. It's not about freedom or self-protection. It's about posing – and hormones.

            Back to shotguns, the traditional hunter-home invasion standby: Klarevas himself survived a gun rampage, and he is certain he survived because the man who tried to kill him and others had a shotgun and not a high-capacity assault weapon.

            "Guns don't kill people"? Those who trot out that sad line know it's a lie when applied to a whole family of guns designed to kill people in bunches.

            As Klarevas writes, "My personal experience illustrates the difference that the weapon makes."

            So does the American experience. As the clock ticks toward the next rampage killing, only hobbyists and gun industry lobbyists, and policy-makers hypnotized by them, will defend the status quo.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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