Friday, August 10, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #68 - Part 1

The Sikh temple massacre and the "lone wacko" nonsense

On Sunday, a 40-year-old Army veteran named Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, WI, a suburb of Milwaukee, and started shooting. When he was done, six people were dead. Page himself died in a shootout out with police, during which one cop was hit several times.

And so once again we have to clean up the blood of yet another massacre, once again we have to console yet another set of grieving families and friends - and once again we have to listen to yet another round of NRA-driven, corporate-sponsored, and assorted right-wing flake crap trying every way possible to blame everything and everyone except the gun.

For example, we have Pat Robertson raving about how the source of attacks on religious sites comes from
people who are atheists, they hate God, they hate the expression of God, and they are angry at the world, angry with themselves, angry with society and they take it out on innocent people who are worshipping God.
Beyond the fact that no one has reported on Page's religious affiliation or lack of it, although given what we do know about him, I would bet - I don't know but I would bet - he calls himself some form of Christian, there is the simple fact that it's hard to see how atheists "hate god" since atheists believe god does not exist and how can you hate something that doesn't exist. Then again, even some on the right have consigned Pat Robertson to "family embarrassment" territory like the weird uncle who drives everybody nuts every family gathering with tales of how his neighbor down the street is organizing the neighborhood cats into a gang of robbers.

More important is that once again we have to listen to "the lone wacko" bull as if guns and resolving conflicts with murderous violence were not woven into our culture, into our very national DNA. Page may have been a lone shooter, but he was no lone wacko. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, Page was a "frustrated neo-Nazi." Page himself told a white supremacist website in 2010 that he had been part of the white-power music scene since 2000 and had started a racist white supremacist band called End Apathy in 2005.

That is, for several years he lived in the sewer of hate that takes up a good portion of the right half of the American political spectrum today - and that was equally true of most of the mass killers of recent times. And no, I am not saying that most right-wingers are Nazis or neo-Nazis but I am saying that hatred and fear, based on race, religion, culture, or anything else that makes you "different" in their eyes, that hatred, fear, and all the other evil spawn of xenophobia fill every available gap in their worldview.

Meanwhile, once again we have to listen to political cowards and wimps like Barack Obama go on about how such "terrible, tragic events" call for "soul-searching" but not for doing a damn thing about how easy it is for pretty much anyone to turn themselves into a one-person strike force. This was the fifth such mass killing in Wisconsin - which has among the nation's weakest gun laws - since 2004. According to a survey by Mother Jones magazine, there have been, including Oak Creek, nearly 60 mass gun killings in the past 30 years. "Mass killing" was defined as at least four people killed, not counting the shooter, in a single event at a single place.

Page himself used a semiautomatic handgun, regarded now as the weapon of choice for mass murderers because they are small, easily concealed, can be fitted with high-capacity magazines - and, of course, are easy to come by. Page, no surprise, got his gun legally. Just like the roughly 300 million other guns out there were.

And once again, again, again, we get bombarded with the lies that people don't support doing anything about gun control. Now, it's true that if you just ask people about "more gun laws" versus "the same gun laws" and "fewer gun laws," the middle choice gets the clear plurality - as "about the same" does in a lot of polls on a lot of topics. If you add that together with the third choice, you have a majority.

(I will note that the “fewer laws” people are essentially a fringe, at 12%: According to a Gallup poll, more than twice as many people, 26%, favor banning handguns outright.)

But even now, when it's supposedly a hopeless cause and a certain loser, a disaster for any political campaign, 44% support tougher gun laws. Not a majority, no, but much further from the fringe position it's usually described as by politicians and the media.

What's more, when you shift the question to "which is more important, gun control or protecting gun owner rights," according to surveys by the Pew Center, the nation is, and has been for several years, split roughly 50-50. Remember, this is at a time when no one on the national stage is making the case for gun controls, when all we get is "gun rights," "self-defense," "Second Amendment Second Amendment Second Amendment," and "they're coming to take our guns." No leader is making the case for gun control - and we are still split 50-50.

Even beyond that: When you get the vague generalities and ask about actual proposals, the numbers sometimes flip dramatically. A poll done in May by Republican pollster Frank Luntz showed that 74% of NRA members support background checks. Sixty-eight percent of NRA members believe that individuals who have been arrested for domestic violence should not be eligible for gun permits. And 75% of NRA members believe that concealed weapon permits should not be available to people who have committed violent misdemeanors. Other polls have shown majority support for bans on assault weapons - not a big majority, but a majority - and very strong support for closing the "gun show loophole," where sales at gun shows are regarded as "private transactions" that don't require any background check.

We can do something about the ocean of guns out there. All we really need is some politicians not cowering before the NRA who would find, if they actually took a stand, that they would have more support than they expected.


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