Monday, November 6, 2017

Time to look in the mirror

One of the things about living in America is that one mass killing quickly cancels out another.  It had been less than a week before Devin Kelley obliterated any memory of the New York truck attack by venting his rage on a rural church between LaVernia and Stockdale, Texas.   Our President was quick with prayers, but he isn't blaming Greg "Wheels" Abbott for allowing such a heinous crime to happen on his home turf, unlike his twitter attacks on Chuck Schumer last week.  Instead, he considers the Sutherland Springs church attack a "mental health problem."

It was also interesting the local police were slow to name Kelley, as if they wanted us to imagine for a moment it could be another ISIS attack.  After all, former Texas Governor Rick Perry had long been warning us of terrorists spilling over the Mexican border.  Turns out Devin Kelley is entirely homegrown and served in the military, but was court-martialled in 2012 for assaulting his wife and child.  Seems like things pretty much went downhill from there.

We can expect little outcry from conservatives, just talk of another lone gunman having lost his marbles.  It doesn't matter that this guy was dressed in full tactical gear, unloading his AR-15 semiautomatic rifle on the church.  Probably even had a notorious bump stock on it to increase the firing rate.  The NRA has voiced some concern with these bump stocks, but it is little more than a ploy to turn away our attention from the more than 5 million assault rifles in circulation since the ban was lifted in 2004.

The zombie-killing rifle has become a favorite of weekend warriors, but all too often ends up in the wrong hands.  It is the closest thing to a military-grade automatic weapon you can get your hands on legally, and has been behind the most lethal mass shootings in American history.  However, it is highly doubtful you will hear any talk of renewing the ban on Capitol Hill.  At best, we can hope for a ban on bump stocks, not that it will make one iota of difference.

What galls me is not so much the widespread availability of these guns but how conservatives turn the other way when one of their own is behind the shootings.  These same blowhards want to end the diversity visa lottery program and ban Muslims from entering the country whenever a deranged individual like Sayfullo Saipov decides to vent his anger.

Like Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas, there was little to suggest Saipov was a dangerous man.  Law enforcement agents say it appears he acted alone.  Whatever relationship he had with ISIS was one he invented for himself.  ISIS was slow to take credit for the attack, but then they are mired down in their own battles in Iraq and Syria to take notice until the damage is done.

These incidents point to something far more insidious than outside agents.  Mass shootings occur almost daily in America.  Nearly 900 persons have been killed in gun violence since Stephen Paddock's assault on Las Vegas.  This is a major epidemic, yet our government at both the federal and state level refuses to recognize it, unless of course the attacker is a Muslim.

The United States has literally become a war zone with more than 17,000 persons reported killed in 2016, and we are well on pace to match that number this year.  Murder rates in small towns have significantly increased over the years, showing this is a problem that goes well beyond the notorious inner cities of Chicago and Detroit, which Trump vilified on the campaign trail in 2016.

Firearms are now so widely available that any attempt to curb their sales would have little impact.  One can try to limit the amount of ammunition available, but this would only lead to gun enthusiasts stockpiling ammo until such laws were passed.  Bump stocks sold out within a week when talk of banning them surfaced in the wake of the Mandalay Bay Massacre.

The odd part is that the number of Americans owning firearms has actually declined over the years, which means firearms are becoming consolidated in fewer hands.  The average gun-owning family now has no less than six firearms in their household.  Little wonder kids have so easy access to them.  If all this isn't enough to make your head spin, I don't know what will.  However, most Americans appear inured to the violence until it happens in their school or church.

We prefer scapegoats like Sayfullo Saipov rather than homegrown products like Stephen Paddock and Devin Kelley, so we can easily blame immigration as the problem.  Yet, the vast majority of these mass killings are carried out by white Americans.  Woe be it to blame ourselves.

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