May 25, 2013
Guns and Moms
CHARLESTON — The dark side of the US has been thrust starkly into the light over the past month. First came the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and then the reaction, which seems to indicate that for millions of people in this country gun ownership is more important than caring for children. This inordinate love of guns illustrates the loathsome grip of a culture of violence.
Unbelievable although it might seem, the obvious need for sensible gun control made clear by yet another atrocity made possible by easy access to automatic weapons has aroused extremists who threaten the nation with even more violence. These past few days, angry people who look as if they have emerged from the swamps of pre- civilization threaten civil war “if they try to take away our guns.” James Yeager, who is the CEO of a company called Tactical Response, went so far as to declare, “I’m not ... putting up with this. I’m not letting my country be ruled by a dictator. I’m not letting anybody take my guns! If it goes one inch further, I’m going to start killing people.”
The Internet is awash with stories of people stockpiling weapons, egged on by right-wing websites, such as the Drudge Report, which depicts President Barack Obama as a dictator like Stalin and Hitler. The extremists may, as talk show host Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball reassures us, represent only 5 to10 percent of the population, but they are in an ugly rage, fuelled by paranoia disguised as patriotism. Underlying it all is rancid racism. The re-election of a black president that brought the very best instincts of the people of the United States to the fore also reignited the hatred of a minority who represents the worst instincts in society.
Having lived in the United States for more than 30 years, I was not shocked by the angry rejection of sensible gun control measures as I was when I first encountered gun-worshippers, but I have been startled by the aggressive insanity of the gun extremists. I have fellow feelings for Piers Morgan, a British journalist who filled Larry King’s chair at CNN. Like me when I first encountered people who used to be called “gun nuts” he was surprised by their ferocity when he tried to use facts and reason to persuade them to see the obvious: that the availability of guns that are meant for military use and are designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest possible time makes it easy to kill a score of little children.
Morgan pointed out that in both Britain and Australia strict measures to restrict gun ownership have prevented any repeat of school shootings similar to the Connecticut killings. He invited people who believe that more guns are the answer to appear on his programme. The consequence was, as you can see by clicking the following link, a freak show.
More than 100,000 people signed a petition to the president demanding that Morgan be deported. The number was sufficient to secure a pronouncement from the White House rejecting the petition. Initially, there was a heartening reaction to the latest school shooting. The involuntary tears shed by President Obama when he addressed the nation in the wake of the murder of innocents in Newtown, Connecticut, did not seem likely to be shed in vain. But the pushback from the gun lobby was not long in coming. The mighty, four-million strong National Rifle Association, which responds to the multi-billion dollar arms and armaments industry, responded by calling for more US citizens to arm themselves. Sales of firearms, including the deadly assault weapons that have been used in most of the mass killings over the past decades, have soared. There are now more than 300 million guns in private hands.
However, this formidable force faces a challenge from a potentially far more powerful force.
“A Million Moms for Gun Control” is an example of maternal political activism that will swing into action on the streets of the United States beginning on Monday, January 21, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and follow up with a march on Washington DC the following Saturday. The organization was formed by Shannon Watts, a mother of five who lives in Indianapolis. She founded the organization the day after the December 14 school shootings, by going to Facebook. The organization is what the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo might have been if social media like Facebook had been available in the dark days of the dictatorship. See:
Shannon Watts has done what no politician has dared to do. She has taken on the NRA and warns its leadership and four million members that they are going to have to deal with “a tsunami of 84 million angry moms coming out at them. Angry moms like they have never seen before.”
Ms. Watts had a career as a public relations executive and her experience in the field of pubic persuasion is being used to good effect. She counters the argument that the Second Amendment provides armour-plated protection for all guns: “We understand about the Second Amendment,” she says, “but it was written in 1791, before AK47s.”
The Moms sent a letter to the NRA’s chief spokesman, Wayne La Pierre, proposing cooperation in framing legislation to make schools and public places safer for children. When he dismissed the proposal and argued that more guns were needed to protect children, the Moms responded: “While it should not be surprising that an organization driven by profit would support the sales of its products, Mr. LaPierre’s ill-timed suggestion that an armed police officer to be stationed in ‘every single school’ across America to prevent further mass shootings was an insult to Americans who want to live in a free society.”
Like the generals in Argentina who scoffed at the mothers who demanded to know where their children were, the leaders of the NRA appear to be underestimating the power of women with a cause who are also mothers with a mission.