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​An All-American Virus

Gadfly | May 27th, 2023

By Ed Raymond

Question for 2024: Will a Billion Guns and a Quadrillion Bullets Make DSA Safer?

Ever since Lucy fell out of an African tree 3.2 million years ago, animals have been designing new ways to kill each other. For the last 300,000 of those years, Homo sapiens have been inventing more efficient methods.

If we are still around in a few years, one can predict that nuclear weapons will be obsolete. The machine gun probably won the trench warfare of World War I, even with accurate firing from biplanes in the air. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki emphatically ended World War II and have affected war planning since. If there is a new level of killing, “things” might destroy part of the universe.

The American Gun Culture (GAC) virus is a young virulent virus if we compare it to the bubonic plague and others of the 880,000 viruses that plagued or will continue to plague Homo sapiens. The bubonic virus has been with the world for more than 5,000 years and we still do not have a vaccine to control it.

I’m going to use two firearm events of the trillions that have taken place since the invention of gun and powder by the Chinese in the 10th Century.

On July 28, 1835, one of my French ancestors from Corsica named Giuseppe Mario Fieschi fired his “infernal machine” of 25 barrels at King Louis Phillipe in just one of the seven assassination attempts on the new king. His weapon is displayed in the French National Archives.

The description of the event paints a horrible picture: “As the king rode by with the royal family in a procession, the infernal machine did let out a murderous volley, killing 18 and injuring 43, including Fieschi himself.

The street was strewn with dead and dying men and horses. But no one in the royal family was hurt! The king was “grazed.” The weapon, placed to shoot from a third-story window, was recovered by police and Fieschi was arrested on the spot. He had been wounded by having half his face ripped off by his own weapon. He was sentenced to death by guillotine and had his healed head lopped off by the French “razor” on February 19, 1836. Only one infernal machine was ever built.

Then Came Another Event to Awaken the World to Firearms: Sandy Hook

The other event I will use is the Sandy Hook mass murder of 20 first graders and six adults at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14. 2012.

The investigators who spent a week on scene investigating the mass shooting, took 1,495 photos of the crime scene. Many were taken before the bodies were removed. The photos will probably never be released. There are photos of 16 dead children put in a three X four square foot bathroom hiding place by a teacher. A six-year-old weighs approximately 54 pounds and has 6/10th of a gallon of blood. So, in the 12 square feet of space, with wash basin plumbing and toilet, they would have a total of about 860 pounds of flesh and about 10 gallons of blood—and not enough room to fall when shot.

Previous information revealed that one first grader had been shot 11 times with an AR-15 style rifle. The investigators found 80 brass from shots fired into the bathroom. The killer fired 154 rounds of military ammo in his murder of 26. There was so much dried blood on the floor after the bodies had been removed that it had to be chipped off the cement floor in order to find bullets and shrapnel for evidence. Evidently there were no faces left from the 80 rounds. Only DNA could recognize what was left of the 16 children.

When 14-year-old Emmett Till was beaten and shot by relatives of a Money, Mississippi White woman who said the Black kid from Chicago had whistled at her, his face was not recognizable to his mother either.

But when his mother decided to have an open casket at his funeral, the pictures of Emmet went around the world and started another civil rights movement.

At Sandy Hook, the Connecticut attorney general thought that if just a dozen of the photos of the slaughter were published by the press, Congress “would be forced to do the right thing.”

The parents were never asked to give permission to release the photos. It is understandable in their grief over such an insane event.

But the sacrifice of Mrs. Till 67 years ago has probably saved thousands of Black lives. What would happen in the Divided States of America today if the 1,495 photos were released to the media? Would it mean the end of the Second Amendment and the sale of military weapons and ammunition to the general public? Should the Sandy Hook parents be asked to sacrifice their child’s and their privacy to provide the vaccine to eliminate the American Gun Culture virus forever?

The parents of the 19 children massacred at Uvalde, Texas agreed that scenes of officers shown vomiting, sobbing, holding each other, and wiping blood off their hands after viewing their dead children in a classroom might affect the Texas governor’s and legislature’s attitude about gun control. Take one guess.

The big question is: would Congress be able to pass responsible gun control legislation? Would pictures of 16 bodies shot to AR-15 shreds displayed nationwide overcome the Republican Party’s love of guns and love of power? If not, would the firearm deaths of five Republican senators or twenty Republican representatives be enough to end the gun culture? What if the 25 congresspersons were Democrats? That’s another perverse story of Second Amendment “militias” that are now called National Guards of the states.

Fact: Good Guys With Guns Can Become Bad Guys With Guns—and Vice-Versa

Corey of Baltimore was ten when he saw somebody shot and paralyzed. When eleven he found his first gun in an alley and sold it to an older kid for $45. He bought candy with the “fortune.” At thirteen he saw a 14-year-old friend shot and killed. Corey started to sell drugs. After he was robbed of drugs and money, he bought a gun. At seventeen Corey was buying drugs to sell when the dealer tried to rob him. He shot and killed the dealer.

Corey was caught and sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder. Two weeks after his release his younger brother was shot to death outside the family’s home. He stalked the man he thought had killed his brother, was about to shoot him, when a police cruiser was seen down the street. Corey went home. His mother knew what he was up to, so she told him: “Please stop, I don’t want to lose another baby.” Corey cried on the spot. (I’m using material from Alec MacGillis’s article “Stopping the Violence” in The New Yorker of February 6,2023.)

Corey promised his mother to give up guns. When hearing about a Baltimore program called “violence interrupter”, he committed himself to stop shooting guns, too.

Developed in Chicago, the program enlists “people who have criminal records and a history of street violence to use their contacts and credibility to defuse tensions before anyone is shot.” Read the article. You will discover how a bad guy with a gun for thirty years became a good guy without a gun.

Corey says: “My brother’s death opened my eyes to the pain I was causing, and had been causing for half my life.” He soon was lecturing and counseling other criminals about pain and guns.

Derek Chauvin was a Minneapolis cop for about 20 years, earned 18 misconduct reports but also earned two awards for valor in difficult situations. He kneeled on the neck of George Floyd for 9 minutes and 27 seconds and killed him while being watched by junior officers, a small crowd, and a teenager who videoed the kill. His supervisors evidently considered him a good guy with a gun for about 20 years. Now he is a very bad guy without a gun serving a 21-year sentence.

The Civilized World Looks at Us as Freaks and Angry Apes in Carnival Cages

One summer while in college I spent half of it selling ice cream bars and footlong hotdogs on the carnival midways of county and state fairs. I saw many unusual animal and human creatures “shocking” fairgoers. We are animals and creatures when it comes to the use of firearms in the world. We have earned the world’s derision and bewilderment. We have 4% of the world population but 50% of the civilian firearms. We should concentrate on answering the following questions.

1. Why do Republicans dominate 19 states out of the top 25 states in firearm deaths per 100,000 population? Why do Democrats dominate 19 of the bottom 25 states?

2. Why have one in five American adults had a family member killed by a gun? Why have one in six Americans witnessed a shooting? Why have one in three Blacks witnessed a shooting?

3. Why do only 49% of Americans know that firearms are the leading cause of death of children ages 1 to 19, which leads the world by several lengths?

4. Why do 44% of American families have a firearm in the house? Why do one third of them store their guns loaded and in unlocked locations? Why do 61% store their weapons and ammunition together?

5. Why do 51% of adults feel gun-related crimes, injuries, and deaths are a constant threat or grave concern in their community. Why do 62% of Blacks and Hispanics face the same problem?

Maybe Idolatry Is the Reason Republicans Love Guns Instead of People

Tish Harrison Warren has a major point about guns in the DSA in her article “The Wages of Idolatry” in The New York Times: “The idea of idolatry is not, necessarily, having false gods that we can name—or sculpt for that matter. Instead, it is a term for disordered love. It describes a devotion to even good things that is excessive or obsessive.

“With more guns in the U.S. than people, many see gun ownership as part of their identity and an inalienable right. Guns take on a sacred quality among devotees. Sometimes this is overt, such as the trend highlighted by The Atlantic last year of Catholic gun enthusiasts posting illustrations of saints holding AR-15s or photos of guns draped in rosaries.

“Most people would not valorize violence. They would not profess a worship of weapons. But our devout attachment to guns springs from a broad societal adoration of power and individual rights. These interact with other cultural idols, like money, in complex ways as the gun lobby buys an outsize voice in politics.

“Our inability to pass meaningful gun control measures is irrational. Idolatry, however, is impervious to rational arguments because it is driven by passions deeper than cognition.”

Tish Warren grew up in Southern Baptist churches, graduated from Wake Forest University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and is an Anglican priest. She has won several awards for books about Christianity. She will be my best guide about the atrocity of the American Gun Culture virus—until a better one comes along.

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