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July 5, 2014

Macho, crazy America sticks to its guns

By Sam Pollak
The Daily Star

---- — “I shoot first, and ask questions later.”

Big macho bumper sticker motto, often seen on vehicles driven by men with pot bellies who believe that owning an assault weapon makes them thin, handsome, patriotic and a hero-in-waiting.

With 26 states that have “Stand Your Ground,” i.e. “Shoot First,” laws that tend to make unjustifiable homicide somehow justified, we are a nation that shoots first, and if we ask questions later, nobody appears to be answering.

We must be crazy. The rest of the world knows it but is either too polite to say it to our faces or too scared that we are going to shoot them, too.

Take Australia, for instance. In 1996, after 35 people died in a Port Arthur gun massacre, it took all of 12 days before the Aussie federal and state governments agreed on some strict gun laws, including a ban on semi-automatic rifles.

There had been 12 mass shootings in Australia between 1981 and 1996, but not even one in all the years since the new laws were passed.

In Scotland, in 1996, a guy in the town of Dunblane shot to death 16 kindergarten-aged children. Like the 2012 tragedy in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School were shot to death, there was public outrage after the senseless carnage.

The Scots passed laws that have helped prevent any more school shootings. Similar legislation was adopted in Canada, Germany and Finland after shooting incidents, with similar results.

In the United States, we haven’t done a damn thing. There are more guns in this country than there are people.

A statistic you hear a lot is that we have had 74 school-related shootings in the U.S. just since Sandy Hook. That came from a gun-control group connected with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The folks at Politifax.com, a project of the Tampa Bay Times, looked under the hood and found that of the 74 incidents, there were 10 in which the shooter intended to commit mass murder like at Sandy Hook at a public school or college campus.

Politifax asked James Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University, to look at the stats. He said in an average year, 15 to 20 kids in kindergarten through 12th grade are killed by gunshot at school. A similar number of college students die on campus from guns each year, too.

Gee, JUST 15 to 20 schoolchildren are shot, huh?

Hey, we can live with that, even if they couldn’t.

JUST 15 to 20 college kids’ lives are ended because they took a bullet or two or three or more?

Sure, no problem. Well worth it so that some yahoo who can recite the 2nd Amendment chapter and verse but couldn’t care less about the other 26 can have his AR-15 assault weapon and feel like a big man.

I didn’t have to search for the following items. They were right there as I looked at the newspapers I normally read online. I could pick any week of the year, and the results would be the same.

June 24: At least nine people were shot and two were killed early Tuesday when two men armed with assault weapons fired about 50 bullets at a Miami apartment complex, police said.

June 27: A Louisiana man has been arrested after he shot a 10-year-old boy in the face in a road rage incident.

June 27: Mark Mayfield, a Mississippi tea party leader and lawyer facing charges in connection with taking photos of Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife at her nursing home, apparently committed suicide Friday morning. Police said that Mayfield’s wife, Robin, called 911 just after 9 a.m. to say her husband had shot himself.

June 29: Two men were killed and 14 people — including a 10-year-old boy — were wounded in a wave of gun violence that swept across all five (New York City) boroughs Saturday night into Sunday morning, police said.

June 30: A crazed job-seeker opened fire on a Brooklyn machine shop Monday — wounding two workers before putting the gun to his own head, police and witnesses said.

Tragically, there are so many, many more shootings I could cite from just the last week. Gang killings, grudges, accidents, suicides. All they have in common is that a gun was involved.

We have become so sickeningly inured to gun violence that we don’t even notice anymore that we have to hold our breath and pray when we send our sons and daughters to school, that if we make an impolite gesture to the clown who cuts us off on the highway, that clown may pull out a gun and shoot us.

The Centers for Disease Control says one person in America is killed by a firearm every 17 minutes, 87 people are killed during an average day, and 609 are killed every week.

Yep, we’re crazy all right.

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak.