There is always so much to write about that it’s difficult to find the starting point. But I think I’ll start with the biker gang shoot-out in Waco, Texas on Sunday because the irony is so delicious. Let’s first take a look at who showed up at this massacre that took the lives of 9, left at least 18 injured and led to the arrest of 172 or so. You really can’t make this stuff up. From the article:
Open Carry advocates and bikers packed the State Capitol grounds in January in hopes of pushing for more lax gun laws. Among those bikers was Mike Lynch, who was also one of the culprits in the Waco bloodbath. (…)
Mike is one of the 172 bikers who were arrested after the carnage in Waco, leaving 9 dead and at least 18 injured.
In January, at least 2,000 bikers made their way to the State Capitol for a day of lobbying. Gun rights was at the top of their list of priorities, Fox 8 reported.
“They’re going to try to take our guns because some looney toon killed a bunch of people,” one biker said in January.
I can’t fit anymore irony in one sentence than that.
Lynch wrote on Facebook, “What a great day!” above a post referencing their attendance at the Texas Capitol.
So when we let the gun lobby and its’ minions write our gun laws, this is what we get- a lot of dead people in a massacre that most law enforcement said they have never seen in all of their years of working in the field. And it’s true that the gun lobby, whose interests are not that of even most gun owners, write the laws.
“Everything is big in Texas,” said Jonathan Hutson, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Including big biker shootouts and even bigger loopholes that allow criminals and other dangerous people to buy guns without a Brady background check at gun shows and online”
Ah- the irony again. Now here was a group of mad men, for the perpetrators were mostly men. And mad they were- over some slight that allegedly happened in a restaurant bathroom and perhaps someone drove over someone’s foot in the parking lot? That’s enough to make you mad all right. But did people have to die over these petty arguments? The answer is, of course, NO. But when a gun, and in this case other weapons as well, are available, it’s easy to kill someone in an instant in an argument.
What I am saying is that guns are the most commonly used weapon in homicides. And this case was a prime example. Other weapons were used but the 9 who died apparently, from the information I have found, all died of gunshot injuries:
….“When you get in an argument with a group of outlaw motorcyclists,” Thompson wrote, “your chances of emerging unmaimed depend on the number of heavy-handed allies you can muster in the time it takes to smash a beer bottle. In this league, sportsmanship is for old liberals and young fools.” The addition of guns proved predictably deadly. But whose bullets killed whom and why?
As if on cue, the right wing is blaming law enforcement for the deaths. At this point we don’t know who killed whom. But it seems clear from several articles that the biker gangs had made some statements threatening to shoot police officers.
And as if to make the public, who mostly support common sense when it comes to gun laws– yes- even in Texas- madder, the Texas legislature is thinking about expanding gun rights to allow just about anyone to open carry their pistols and other guns and with a provision that prevents law enforcement from asking them for their permit to carry. Seems like a good idea, right? This is the gun culture we have, thanks to spineless politicians who care more about their campaign treasure chests and saluting to the corporate gun lobby than about common sense and actually doing something about the public safety they were elected to protect. This is the definition of mad men– meant broadly to include all legislators.
Closer to home, a local car dealer decided it would be a good idea to give pistols away in a promotion to get customers to buy cars. Great idea, right? What message does this send to the public? Why do we think giving away a deadly weapon should be a part of a business promotion? Some of my Facebook friends alerted me to the one page prominent ad in the local newspaper. This prompted quite a big discussion on Facebook and through e-mail about what we could do to express our concerns about such an ad.
Yesterday more than a few phone calls were made by concerned citizens to both the local newspaper and the local car dealer. We learned that the Pawn Shop that had apparently donated the guns for the promotion, is a licensed firearms dealer and will perform background checks on any person who walks away from the gun dealer with a gun. The problem is that there was no disclaimer to that effect in the ad as there should have been. We also learned that the both the newspaper personnel and the car dealer representatives to whom we spoke were quite adamant that a background check should be required. If that is the case and the importance of a Brady background check was expressed, one wonders why there is so much resistance to requiring all gun sales to have one? Calling attention to the fact that many gun sales go without background checks will help to change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities.
By coincidence, I took my car to my dealer for an oil change and some other maintenance yesterday where I spoke to one of the managers who I know. He said that this ad was the topic of their morning meeting. They were quite concerned about the lack of information about whether a background check would be required. Their other concern was for the bad message this sends to the public leaving them embarrassed for car dealers who have to sink to giving guns away to get business.
What is happening here is that the veritable “chickens are coming home to roost.” When we sit back and allow the insane and well funded single interest gun lobby groups to make our laws without thought to the consequences, we encourage such a cavalier attitude towards guns that when something happens like the Waco shooting, people are taken aback and proclaim surprise. When a car dealer gives gun away in a prominently placed ad in a local paper, some people just think it’s part of our culture and no big deal. Others, however, take notice and they don’t like it. The problem for this gun dealer here was that the ad was so large and the image of the two pistols so obvious that it called attention to itself. That is what they wanted but I don’t think the result is what they expected.
This is NOT the gun culture the general public wants. But it is the gun culture we have. It is also not the culture we have to accept. Things are changing.
Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign wrote this great piece yesterday about how changes to social mores occur over time and how we have learned to do a better job of protecting our children and our communities from hard, sometimes the hard way. From the article:
And then it struck me, what could be more inspiring than Mad Men? Not only as a great way to end a speech, but as a powerful demonstration of how much the world can change and how quickly that change can happen.
In less than a generation how many of the things we see on that show have gone from perfectly acceptable — even glamorous or sexy — to socially unconscionable? How many dangerous, reckless or harmful things that we used to do without second thought, are things we would not even consider doing now? (…)
The fact is, if we can just keep guns only out of the hands of people that every sane American believes should not have them in the first place, and inspire safe, responsible behavior around the dangers and risks of guns in the home, we can create extraordinary change.
But first, we have to stop talking about guns as a partisan political debate and start talking about gun deaths as the public health and safety issue that they are.
Don Draper famously said, “If you don’t like what’s being talked about, change the conversation.” That is precisely what we must do to address the problem of gun deaths and injuries in our nation. Just like all the other issues that have changed so dramatically in the generation since Mad Men, we have to start talking about solutions based on our common goals and values, like health, safety and freedom from fear.
Dan Gross is right. Gun violence is a public health and safety epidemic. Making that worse by passing looser gun laws rather than stronger laws has deadly results. Promoting gun giveaways for advertising promotions is just not a good idea given the increase in gun deaths and the obvious public health problem resulting from our cavalier and insane gun culture. We don’t have to accept the way things are. We can step up to make change and it can happen in small ways as well as large. The “Mad Men” culture isn’t the culture we have today, though some would say that the advertising culture prevalently featured in the popular series still exists in some ways. But luckily we know better about some things and people no longer openly smoke and drink in the work place or let kids play with plastic bags over their heads.
If local car dealers realize that they shouldn’t give guns away as a way to get people to buy cars, then change will happen. If Texas legislators are scrutinized for their own role in listening to the wrong people while making gun laws, then change will happen.
It is so obvious that something is terribly broken with our American gun culture. But why do we let it continue without making the changes we deserve? Ask your legislators to be responsible decision makers when it comes to public safety. Ask them to stop being lapdogs to an industry that sells deadly weapons without concern for public safety. Ask other parents if there are unsecured guns in homes where your children play. Ask businesses to think twice about allowing loaded guns in places where families gather. Ask questions when you aren’t sure a policy is going to actually keep children and families safe from devastating gun violence. Make phone calls, send e-mails, realize that laws matter and there are consequences to bad laws.
We can’t shrug our shoulders and just walk away thinking that nothing will change anyway so why bother. We can make a difference if we put our heads together for common sense.
Let’s get to work. It’s past time to challenge things that have become socially acceptable but are actually harmful and dangerous. Let’s do it before more harm is done. Lives are at stake and we are better than this.