If we’d given the people of Sandy Hook more support, other kids wouldn’t be dead now. … Had I acted, maybe my son might be alive.” -Richard Martinez, father of slain 20-year-old Santa Barbara student, Richard Michaels-Martinez.

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A Gun Culture

Giving new meaning to the term “hunting for a wife,” Jewelry by Harold owner in North Liberty, Iowa will give a husband-to-be a voucher for a new Remington 870 rifle with the purchase of an engagement ring priced at $1,999 or higher. Shop owner Harold van Beek stated: “So say: I’m hunting deer, and here is a diamond ring, dear.” To apply for this “deal,” one must be eligible to own a gun in Iowa, and not have been convicted of a felony.

In its attempt to pull in shoppers a couple of years ago on so-called “Black Friday” (the day following Thanksgiving), the camping and outdoors superstore, Cabela’s, handed out envelopes to the first 800 people over the age of 18 who lined up in front of its stores before5:00 a.m.for a chance to win a Browning A-Bolt Medallion .300 WSM rifle with a Cabela’s 50th anniversary gun case all worth $875.

The Scottsdale, Arizona gun club now offers its members the service of sending out their Christmas cards with family, including infants, posing with Santa while holding pistols and military grade automatic weapons, fa la la la la, la la la la. Joy to the world.

I’ve heard about people being shot from canons, but for those who want to remain active hunters well after they have “bought the farm,” now their wishes have come true. Be the first on your block to kill long after you have died. For the sum of only $1250, your loved ones can have you cremated with a pound of your ashes stuffed inside genuine bullets, resurrecting you as live ammunition.

For that measly sum, you can metamorphose as 250 shot shells, 100 rifles cartridges, or 250 pistol cartridges. For only $100 extra, until you come alive again as a killing apparatus, your bullet ashes can rest in peace in a decorative wooden coffin-like box.

The company, Holy Smoke Bullet Urns of Stockton, Alabama, has taken quite literally Shylock’s claim in Shakespeare’s 1596 Merchant of Venice: “The pound of flesh which I demand of him is deerely bought, ’tis mine, and I will have it.”

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According to the company’s founder:

You know I’ve thought about this for some time and I want to be cremated. Then I want my ashes put into some turkey load shotgun shells and have someone that knows how to turkey hunt use the shotgun shells with my ashes to shoot a turkey. That way I will rest in peace knowing that the last thing that one turkey will see is me, screaming at him at about 900 feet per second.”

In this way, you will obtain virtual immortality in the elk antlers hung over your family’s fire place or in the stuffed duck sitting on their living room side table. In addition to the decimation of wild game, the company offers this alternative to traditional burial as a means to “continue to protect your home and family even after you are gone.” So just think of it; now you can kill a home intruder by shooting them right in the gut with your Great Uncle Henry or Aunt Gert!

And maybe it’s not too late to go down to Nation’s Truck Sales in Sanford, Florida where two years ago they offered each customer a brand spanking new assault rifle with the purchase of a truck. Stated General Sales Manager, Nick Ginetta: “We started on Veterans Day. Hey, so many have given so much for this right!”

Asking Critical Questions

I would ask, though, have so many in fact given so much for the right for us to turn our bodies literally into killing devices or for the right to own a “free” assault or hunting rifle? Do we really want “the last thing that one turkey will see is me, screaming at him at about 900 feet per second.” Do residents of our nation really need so many guns, assault rifles and others?

Each time I hear of yet another incident of gun violence, I think back to the very first thing that caught my eye as I entered the grounds of the Ames, Iowa Republican Party Presidential Straw Poll in the summer of 2011. Three young children, I would guess between the ages of 4 -7, sporting day-glow orange baseball caps with “NRA” [National Rifle Association] scrawled atop, and round stickers on their small T-shirts announcing “GUNS SAVE LIVES.”

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According to the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though, gun related violence has reached epidemic proportions in our country by snuffing out the lives of upwards of 30,000 people and wounding many more annually. Each year, over 100,000 people are affected in some way by gun violence. Many of the guns used in these killings reach military level weapons power, guns which currently remain legal. Today in the United States, there are 88.8 firearms per 100 people.

Of the estimated 65 mass murders in the United States since 1982, most of the shooters obtained their weapons legally. Demographically, the shooters in all but one case involved males usually white, with an average age of 35 years.

Should any limits be imposed on the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which reads:

“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”? We seem somehow only to remember the second clause in that sentence while neglecting the first, especially the term “well-regulated”!

Certainly, Jewelry by Harold, Cabela’s, Holy Smoke Bullet Urns of Stockton, Alabama Nation’s Truck Sales of Sanford, Florida, and gun clubs hold the constitutional right to market their devices of death, but what type of messages are they communicating? Are we really “free” as a society when our right “to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”?

I propose that we reevaluate the political right’s obsession with the so-called “freedom” to bear arms because it is not only “criminals who kill people” as Second Amendment advocates claim. Though NRA Executive VP Wayne LaPierre asserts that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” this week, a bad guy with a gun was literally taken down by a good guy armed with courage and a can of pepper spray at Seattle Pacific University.

I believe we must criminalize the possession of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and close loop holes such as buying a weapon at a gun show. We must increase the waiting period and make background checks more rigorous and effective. Furthermore, we need to limit the number of guns any individual can own, and also limit the number of bullets any gun clip can hold. We must also rethink the “logic” of permitting concealed weapons, especially in places like houses of worship, colleges, bars, restaurants, and political rallies. Moreover, all data bases monitoring gun ownership must interface to assess the gun owning population more accurately and effectively.

I also believe that even our flawed “founding fathers” did not want unlimited and unrestricted rights to bear arms. Even if they did advocate for unrestricted gun ownership, these are the same men who owned slaves, committed genocide against and expelled native peoples, withheld enfranchisement from women, and so on.

But as we all know, the chances for comprehensive gun control in the United States is only a pipe dream since the NRA controls Congress and state legislatures, for if they did not, we would have seen effective laws passed years ago resulting in countless lives saved.

The Insanity Must End

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How many more Columbines and Auroras; Fort Hoods; Virginia Techs; Northern Illinois Universities; University of California’s at Santa Barbara; Seattle Pacific Universities; Phoenix, Arizona parking lots; Pennsylvania Amish school houses; Santana High Schools; Springfield Oregon high schools; Jonesboro, Arkansas middle schools; Universities of Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii Xerox Corporations; Atlanta brokerage offices; US postal offices; Jewish community centers and schools; Muslim community centers and Mosques; Sikh temples; Christian churches? How many more dead to urban and suburban violence? How many more gun-induced killings to domestic violence? How many more accidental killing? And how many more Gabby Giffords, Harvey Milks, George Tillers, Tupac Shakurs, The NotoriousB.I.Gs., Trayvon Martins, Lawrence Kings, Molly Judith Olgins, Mary Christine Chapas, Katherine Coopers,Richard Michaels-Martinezes,the famous, and the not-so-famous will it take for this country and its politicians to wake up to the reality that, contrary to the NRA’s assertions, guns in the hands of anyone , in any and all stations of life, kill people? When is enough, enough!

 

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author ofWarren’s Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice(Purple Press); editor ofHomophobia: How We All Pay the Price(Beacon Press), co-author ofLooking at Gay and Lesbian Life(Beacon Press), and co-editor ofReadings for Diversity and Social Justice(Routledge) andInvestigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States(Sense).

 


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