The Naive, The Stupid, and the Dangerous.   Leave a comment

January 20, 2013

All That Gun-Loving Gone Wrong: 5 Dead and 5 Wounded This Week (so far…).

I’m on vacation this week. While my usual routine is to read the online editions of 2-3 newspapers, I took the time to purchase two local print editions and leisurely go through the news of the day. I started reading with the idea that staying informed was my primary focus, but reading local news from this vacation spot 2400 miles away from home would also provide some flavor and context to my time away.

There seems to be a diminishing enthusiasm for the saga of the Notre Dame player who carried on a long-distance love affair with a text-messaging avatar from “Stanford University”. If you’ve been avoiding the sports pages or living in a religious retreat for the last ten days consider yourself lucky. For the rest of us we’ve been subjected to the odd(!) story of the Hawaii-born linebacker Manti Te’o. He fell in love. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In this case his love was a Stanford University girl who didn’t exist. Oh dear, that lying internet, or his lying friend, or a lying stranger. At least the virtual relationship with the nonexistent Stanford woman—”Lennay Kekua”—didn’t progress to a virtual marriage. With her reported “virtual death” from leukemia, Mr. Te’o can forget the pretend girlfriend, regain his focus, and try to stop the current free-fall of his NFL draft ranking. If all of this is confusing, try reading today’s Honolulu Star Advertiser for a recap. But with all of his problems Mr. Te’o (the “naive” referenced above) is not the person with the most significant problems today. The award for stupidity goes to at least three people who’ll share the distinction.

The Sunday edition of the Maui News contained an Associated Press story titled “5 hurt in shootings at gun shows in Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina“. Here are a few of the details:

Accidental shootings at gun shows in North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio left five people injured Saturday, the same day that thousands of gun advocates gathered peacefully at state capitals around the U.S. to rally against stricter firearm limits.

At the Dixie Gun and Knife Show in Raleigh, a 12-gauge shotgun discharged as its owner unzipped its case for a law enforcement officer to check at a security entrance, injuring three people, state Agriculture Department spokesman Brian Long said. Two bystanders were hit by shotgun pellets and taken to a hospital. A retired deputy sheriff suffered a slight hand injury. . . . 

In Indianapolis, police said a 54-year-old man was injured when he inadvertently shot himself while leaving a gun show. . . .

And in Ohio, a gun dealer in Medina was checking out a semi-automatic handgun he had bought Saturday when he accidentally pulled the trigger, injuring his friend, police said. The gun’s magazine had been removed from the firearm, but one round remained in the chamber, police said.  Police Chief Pat Berarducci said it appears the bullet ricocheted off the floor and struck the friend in the arm and leg. The man was taken by helicopter to a hospital 30 miles north in Cleveland, Berarducci said. His condition wasn’t immediately known.

All of this on a day when a few thousand self-proclaimed 2nd Amendment Defenders were protesting President Obama, or advocating for the 2nd Amendment, or something in between. Maybe it was divine intervention by way of gun lovers accidentally shooting themselves, their friends, local law enforcement people. The good news is these reports were all non-lethal. That makes them, by the way, no less moronic.

Perhaps the most frightening image of the day was a photograph—also from Phil Skinner/Associated Press—of protesters standing on the steps of the Georgia State capitol in Atlanta. Maybe it was the angle of the shot. Maybe it was the red shirt (plus tie) on one protester and the brown shirt (plus tie) on another. Red Shirt had a handgun tucked into his belt; Brown Shirt carried a (now infamous) AR-15 rifle and held the megaphone for Red Shirt. It may have just been the historian in me,  but something about the shirt colors, the ties, the megaphone, the weapons, the sunglasses, and the children holding signs that seemed eerily reminiscent of other showings of solidarity, from brown-shirted thugs in 1930s Europe, to brown-shirted thugs in various late 20th century white-power rallies in America. Whatever the politics of those wearing red shirts and brown shirts, I believe that I have a right to not be standing next to someone carrying a (presumably) loaded AR-15, Glock, or Colt six-shooter. I trust the police. I don’t trust strangers with guns.

Finally, on this day when some people believe that guns are not the problem, there was also a story in the Washington Post titled “NM officials: Teenage gunman fatally shoots 5 at Albuquerque home; suspect in custody”.  Among the dead in Albuquerque were two adults and three children.  Go figure: more children are dead and guns were the instrument of choice.

Whether from stupidity, psychosis, or self-induced power-trips, people continue to be killed by guns in this country at an astonishing rate. Thousands may be protesting this weekend on behalf of unlimited gun ownership, and as many for the right to parade through the local performing arts center or baseball stadium with an AR-15 slung over their backs. Consider this: If you need an AR-15 or other splendid killing machine in your house, knock yourself out. If you believe you need it outside your house I’d question your ability to make friends, and your understanding of living in a civilized society. Don’t force your gun upon me. I have rights to. In the upcoming debate on gun laws there may be thousands looking to strut like a fully armed peacock.  However, millions of others are praying that Congress does the right thing and begins to bring sanity, and not guns, to the debate.

David Steffen

© 2013 David Steffen

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