Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Another Day in America
Another Day of Gunfire, Panic, and Fear

“Another day in the United States of America. Another day of gunfire, panic and fear. This time in the city of San Bernardino in California, where a civic building was apparently under attack.”

That is the voice, tinged with sorrow and shock, of a BBC reporter describing yet another day in America.

Just another day in America.

Despite all the political posturing over ISIS, the self-styled Islamic State is far from the greatest threat to life and health in the United States.

That distinction belongs to the fanatic and insatiable leadership of the National Rifle Association, which is singularly responsible for our country being awash in weapons of mass destruction. If ISIS were to vanish today, mass killings would remain routine in the U.S.

The San Bernardino massacre was only the second mass shooting that day, after an early-morning incident in Savannah, Georgia, where one person died and three were injured. According to the Mass Shooting blog on Reddit (which counts much more liberally than the FBI) California’s was the 355th this year involving four or more firearm casualties.

Just another year in America, whose homicide rate of 5 per 100,000 is the third highest among the 36 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Guns account for two-thirds of it.

We lose 12,000 people a year to firearms – mostly one or two at a time rather than in mass shootings. It’s the massacres, of course, that capture the world’s attention. They’re as rare elsewhere as they are common here.

The San Bernardino massacre appears at this writing to be an act of ideological terrorism precipitated, perhaps, by a workplace dispute. What it has in common with the many entirely domestic mass murders is the ease with which people can acquire weapons of mass destruction even in states, like California, that attempt to restrict them. The possession of such weapons, in most cases, should be a felony.

Children are slaughtered in school – in school! – but we do nothing. A young man boiling with racial hate slays nine inside a church – a church! – but we do essentially nothing. Corpses are strewn across the aisles and seats in a movie theater and still we do nothing. A federal judge and a child are among the slain at a congresswoman’s town meeting but we did nothing. A misfit murders three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic and what do we expect? Nothing.

We are in the grip of a mass insanity and the inmates are running the asylum.

But for the NRA, and the spineless politicians it controls, every firearm purchase would require a background check. The sale and possession of military-style weapons, the kind that lend themselves to massacres, would be limited to the armed forces and the police. Individual owners would need good cause and be strictly licensed. High-capacity magazines would be prohibited.

No one needs an AR-15 for home defense. No one needs one for sportsmanship, and in fact high-capacity magazines are barred by many hunting regulations. Animals are better protected than humans in this country.

Former Chief Justice Warren Burger famously denounced the NRA’s mantra, that the Second Amendment guarantees individual gun ownership, as “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public.”

James Madison’s intent in drafting the amendment was to assure the states, some of which were already itching to undo the new Constitution, that there would be no federal standing army and that their militias could continue to protect the public safety.

The militias were accustomed to providing their own weapons. The nation was overwhelmingly rural and fearful of the Native Americans it was displacing. Hunting was for subsistence, not sport.

It was done, moreover, with muzzle-loading weapons from which an expert might get off, at most, three shots a minute – not three or more per second.

If John Roberts and other distorters of the Second Amendment were truly originalists, the universal “right” to bear arms would allow only that kind of anachronistic firearm and we could set about making this country safe from mass shootings.

Unsatisfied even with the fact that there now appear to be more guns than people in the U.S., the NRA and its allies want “open carry” everywhere, including college campuses where alcohol and testosterone are a deadly mix.

The worse it gets, the more mass shootings there are, the more guns people buy.

After the Paris massacre, our State Department advised Americans to be wary wherever they travel abroad.

We’re in greater peril here.

Britain and other nations where gun violence is rare ought to be warning their citizens against coming to our country, where the next mass shooting will be fairly and accurately reported as just “another day in the United States of America.”

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the St. Petersburg Times and author of Floridian of His Century:The Courage of Governor LeRoy Collins. He lives in Western North Carolina.  Column courtesy of Context Florida.

This piece was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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