Partial to Home: Our gun society

Birney Imes

At the risk of pre-empting this column, I encourage readers to read The Dispatch’s Thursday editorial: “Our View: Thoughts and prayers for the Second Amendment”

This past weekend, well before Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, a friend sent a political cartoon from “The Economist,” a British weekly magazine.

In the first panel, a flight attendant is welcoming passengers on an airplane to the United States. In the second, she acknowledges the relaxing of rules relating to COVID-19.

In the third panel, she announces there are more than 350 million guns in circulation. “You might consider body armor,” she says in the final panel.

In the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in 2019, the Japanese consulate in Detroit issued the following warning: “Japanese residents should be aware of the potential for gunfire incidents everywhere in the United States, a gun society , and continue to pay close attention to safety measures.”

Germany warns its citizens traveling to the US: “It is comparatively easy to obtain possession of guns. If you are a victim of an armed attack, do not fight back!”

That is assuming you’re not dead.

The slaughter of innocents continues and the larger world looks on in bewilderment.

Politicians, who are cowed by the NRA, do little more than talk about increased school security and more comprehensive mental health care.

What about our lax gun laws?

Obviously, we lack the political will to restrict gun ownership.

Locally, it is legal to carry a gun into the Lowndes County Courthouse, in plain view or concealed. How does it feel to be a judge making an unfavorable ruling in a divorce case regarding a husband wearing a pistol? How crazy is that?

In Texas, where the latest atrocity (19 schoolchildren and two adults killed) occurred, you do not have to register firearms; with a concealed-carry license anyone can go about with a pistol strapped to their hip; there are no restrictions on long rifles or the number of rounds they can fire; nor are there restrictions on assault weapons or machine guns.

The 18-year-old Texas shooter had just turned 18 and legally bought two AR-15-style rifles and ammunition for his birthday, according to CNN.

The AR-15 rifle, according to Wikipedia, is “one of the ‘most beloved and most vilified rifles’ in the United States, according to The New York Times. The rifles are controversial in part due to their use in high-profile mass shootings. Promoted as “America’s rifle” by the National Rifle Association, AR-15 style rifles’ popularity is partially attributable to proposals to ban or restrict them.”

Canada, Australia and New Zealand have outlawed the sale of the AR-15 after mass shootings in those countries.

Google “AR-15” and the first site that pops up is “Cheaper than Dirt.”

Do you think our Founding Fathers could have imagined an 18-year-old ordering a semi-automatic rifle online and using it to slaughter school children?

Wednesday on NPR’s Morning Edition Texas Democratic congressman Joaquin Castro, whose district is just east of Uvalde, spoke with NPR’s Steve Inskeep about the frustrations facing lawmakers who want tighter restrictions on gun ownership.

INSKEEP: Is this, then, fundamentally a matter of future elections — people who disagree with you are in office in too great of numbers for your side to overcome them, and you need to win elections with a different platform?

CASTRO: … you have these people who, despite 90% of Americans supporting universal background checks and the House of Representatives having already passed a bill to do that in HR8 … They’re enslaved to the gun lobby. They’re enslaved to the NRA. They’re deathly afraid, in a cowardly way, of losing their political jobs, their political careers, if they cross the NRA.

INSKEEP: I would imagine if one of those lawmakers were here, they might say, I’m actually just representing my constituents who believe in Second Amendment rights and have strong views about it. I mean, you represent a part of Texas. You probably represent a lot of gun owners yourself.

CASTRO: … you’re right. There are a lot of gun owners in Texas. And I think when Texans think of guns, they usually think of them in two contexts. No. 1, people want to have a gun in their house in case somebody breaks in at 3 in the morning and tries to harm them or their family members, and they want to protect themselves. And then Texans also want to be able to go and hunt, you know, during deer season or bird season. Those are two of the big things, self-protection and then sport. But, you know, you’ve got the governor and the lieutenant governor and other Republicans in Congress, like Ted Cruz, who don’t want to even consider popular measures. When something has 90% American support, that means there’s a lot more people besides liberal Democrats who are in favor of it.

As the congressman says, this is not about Americans owning guns for protection of their homes or hunting. Few would argue that point.

According to a May 25 poll conducted by Reuters the day after the Uvalde shooting, “84% of respondents said they supported background checks for all firearms sales, while 70% said they backed ‘red flag’ laws that would allow authorities to confiscate guns from people found to be a threat to public safety.

Also, 72% said they would support raising the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.

Those policies were backed by broad majorities of Republicans and Democrats alike and echo the findings of previous surveys.”

The murder of innocent school children, rare in countries with restrictive gun laws, has now become so frequent, it doesn’t surprise us anymore. It is the price we pay for lax gun laws. One, we as a society, apparently, are willing to pay.

What can we do as individuals to begin to address this epidemic? For starters we can let our elected representatives know how we feel about what is virtually unfettered access to guns. Call or write these folks.

US Representative Trent Kelly (R-District 1) – (202) 225-4306; trentkelly.house.gov/contact/

US Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) – (202) 224-6253; wicker.senate.gov/contact

US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) – (202) 224-5054; hydesmith.senate.gov/contact-senator

Governor Tate Reeves (R) – (601) 359-3150; [email protected]

Birney Imes ([email protected]) is the former publisher of The Dispatch.

Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.

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