Thursday, November 09, 2017

Why Texas Matters

Almost immediately after a gunman entered a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and mowed down the congregation with what the media refers to imprecisely as “an assault weapon” – what weapon used in the commission of a mass murder is not an assault weapon? -- Senators Dick Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut unscrolled their pitch: 1) assault weapons are murderous, 2) prayer is pointless and 3) send campaign cash our way.

Prescinded from their analysis was the nub of the matter – the truth which, like the devil, lies in the details.

Many of the important details arrived, as usual, late, days after the slaughter, long after the two senators had made their pitch. Both were, in fact, reading from the same well-worn script: If the nation, which is unalterably stupid and prayerful, would simply and manfully face down the satanic influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the political bugaboo of both senators, and pass legislation very much like that passed in Connecticut after Adam Lanza had assaulted the staff and school children of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the tragedy that occurred In Sutherland Springs need not have happened.

This analysis fails at almost every point.

Adam Lanza could not have been prevented from deploying his AR15 by any law proposed by either senator. The rifle was legally purchased by his mother, whom he murdered with a non-prohibited .22 rifle. Like Devin Kelly, the shooter in Sutherland Springs, Lanza carried other lethal weapons with him in his car to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Both had psychological problems; recent reports indicate Kelly had escaped from a mental hospital in New Mexico.

Owing to a reporting error, Kelly was able to pass background checks four times during separate purchases of four weapons Under federal law, Kelly should not have been able to make these purchases because he had been convicted in 2012, while in the Air Force, of assaulting his first wife and her toddler son and served time in a military prison. The Air Force admitted on Monday, November 6, that “it had failed to forward information about him to the national databases used for gun purchase background checks,” according to a report in The New York Times. The slaughter of the innocents in the Baptist Church in Texas occurred because of an enforcement error; the law that would have prevented the mass murder in Texas was available, but it was not enforced.

The church was attacked because it was a safe target, so the attacker thought, until he in turn was shot twice and disabled by a man armed with a banned-in-Connecticut AR15 rifle, a remarkably accurate weapon. The killer, an atheist not given to praying, was armed with a semi-automatic rifle and wearing body armor when he was shot and forced to flee.  It is a matter of plain fact that mass murderers choose soft targets that have been, so to speak, deweaponized. Mass murderers are selective in this regard, not necessarily because they lack courage, but because they wish to accomplish their aim, mass slaughter, without interruption. Perhaps they do not mind going out in a blaze of gory glory – but they NEED the blaze.

Murphy candidly admits that legislation he and Blumenthal have been promoting will not pass in the US Congress. He argues that Congress can agree on such matters as background checks for released convicted criminals and mentally ill persons but  yet insists on a bill that containsaccording to a Channel 3 Eyewitness News report,  such provisions as: “Banning the sale, manufacture, transfer and importation of 205 military-style assault weapons by name. Owners can keep existing weapons” and  “Banning any assault weapon that accepts a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics, including a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping stock. Owners can keep existing weapons.”

In politics, nothing succeeds like failure. A measure that will not pass in the U.S. Congress can have no adverse real-world consequences, but its proponents will never-the-less be able to reap rich political rewards. Gun control has been a money-maker for both Murphy and Blumenthal. It also permits the two senators to engage in value shaming. False promises create a media effervescence that surrounds ambitious politicians with moral auras. They, like John Lennon – and unlike people who live in real time -- can imagine a world in which there is no Heaven or Hell, only blue skies above, where people live only in the moment, where there are no countries, nothing to kill or die for, where there is no religion, no possessions, and where everybody lives in peace and harmony.

Here is Murphy shaming everyone in the US Congress who is not Chris Murphy:  "The paralysis you feel right now — the impotent helplessness that washes over you as news of another mass slaughter scrolls across the television screen — isn't real. It's a fiction created and methodically cultivated by the gun lobby, designed to assure that no laws are passed to make America safer, because those laws would cut into their profits. As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets. Ask yourself — how can you claim that you respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons-makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of your constituents?”

People not paralyzed by Murphy’s moral unction should ask themselves whether the Senator is serious about producing passable legislation affecting agreed upon matters such as background checks for convicted criminals and the mentally ill.

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