Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, September 16, 2013

Guns don't kill people, right?

Guest Post by Jerry Gettinger

At 23, I started a career in San Antonio, Texas. It was late November 1963. My 50-person office had heard that President John F. Kennedy was going to pass by on his way to the airport. Very exciting. My buddies and I stood and watched from outside the office.

Suddenly, there was a noticeable increase in the crowd noise. I looked to my left and suddenly… he came around the corner with Jackie; and in the front seat Texas Governor John Connally with his wife. The car was a Lincoln convertible, big and Presidential-looking. There was only one police officer who was responsible for keeping the crowd at bay, even though he really wasn’t needed. We were all well behaved in those days. 

Of course, there were Secret Service men running along side. The motorcade had, as I remember, five autos, with the President’s next to the last. As President Kennedy passed, I was stunned at how handsome he was. Jackie was enough to astound you. The President's car passed maybe 25, 30 feet in front of me. 

I turned to my friend and mentioned how easy it would be to put a bullet into the president. The car was a convertible and the lack of security was quite surprising. (The president was unpopular in Texas.) But who would think of doing such a thing?  

As I think back, it was so obvious and so easy that it should not have been surprising.

The next day, I was at my desk talking to a customer when he said, “I have to hang up. There was something on the TV about the President being shot.” 

I put the phone down and was about to yell when someone came running in and yelled that the President had been shot in Dallas. I looked over at the friend to whom I had made the offhand remark the day before. Our eyes met and there was that look of disbelief. But it was true. And President Kennedy was dead a short while later.

I can’t explain it, but I have always had the feeling that everything changed that day. The world was never the same again. No one was safe and there were no rules anymore. 

Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, Columbine High School, Virginia Tech and in January 2011, Tucson. It sounds cold, but what happened in Tucson was not a surprise. It was shocking and even more so, sad, sad, sad. But not surprising. 

I haven’t heard anyone say that the senseless massacre was a surprise. It started on a chilly day in Texas and continued in Tucson. The players change. The method is the same (guns), although the numbers have increased along with the ability to kill faster. Hi-Tech. Tucson, we had hoped would be a turning point, like Columbine High School, or Virginia Tech, or, who knows what is next.

Then there was Newtown. I fear it is simply another painful experience, except… First graders. Those who knew no evil. They had not even begun their lives. 

We thought the Tucson shooting was a horror -- and it was. However, Newtown made the others seem small, even though they were each in their own way a disaster of great proportion. People shot, children’s lives thrown away swiftly by a mentally ill young man, wicked to a degree one can only imagine.

I remember the President’s murder as if it were yesterday. Kennedy was bigger than life in person. And Jackie was hot. Every time there is a such a tragedy, I think back to the open car the President was in. So vulnerable. 

When are we going to stop the craziness? 

Buying assault weapons for target practice? Can anyone really believe that? On whom? A nine year old? First graders? If something isn't done, there will be another. That is certain. Tucson was not an isolated event. It was another episode in a series. 

An incident made all too easy by our so-called gun laws. Heck of a job, Wayne (LaPierre). Your money has made gun laws a joke. The TV program Gunsmoke is now a reality show being filmed at your corner supermarket or in the local elementary school.

Please explain to me how a magazine holding 50 bullets is good for anything but, oh well, you know.

Next there was Newtown. Children. First graders. Not only has it not stopped, but also it has escalated to where 6 year-olds are fair game. 

Guns don’t kill people, right? Enough already! First graders. My God is there no courage in Washington.

Think about this: if Newtown was another episode, then how bad, how utterly, how utterly evil will the next one be? I know, guns do not kill people….yeah, right. 

Do not, for one minute think that it’s over. Does anyone out there believe that the shooting is over?

This guest post above was written by Jerry Gettinger.

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As I post this blog, news reports have at least 13 people confirmed dead from the DC Navy Yard shooting today (September 16). Mr. Gettinger didn't even list all of the high profile mass shootings in recent years. In 2006, Amish school children in Pennsylvania; in 2009, Ft. Hood, Texas; in 2012, Aurora, Colorado. The fact of the matter is that no matter how many get listed, there are so many more to list.

In the wake of the Navy Yard shooting, Slate posted an interactive, crowdsourced story on how many gun deaths there have been in the United States since Newtown. They acknowledge it is not comprehensive but have reports and record of more than 8,200.

We know the National Rifle Association will not support sensible firearms legislation anytime soon. It is apparent that this lobbying powerhouse wields undue influence over Congress. This, of course, is largely the result of campaign finance law. Or should I say lawlessness?

Yet, that is not the only factor keeping Congress from addressing the issue.

We might joke about Fox News, the Tea Party and the multitudes of people who we believe have no clue about the workings of government. However, many of them do recognize what Gore Vidal, in an essay published in Vanity Fair's November 1998 issue, called the "War at Home." Reprinting that essay in his 2002 book, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, he titled it "Shredding of the Bill of Rights."
Today, in the all-out, never-to-be-won twin wars on Drugs and Terrorism, two million telephone conversations a year are intercepted by law-enforcement officials.
That was 1998. Today, they (the NSA, which discloses to the Drug Enforcement Agency, which then uses the information but covers up the audit trail) probably record two million phone conversations before noon everyday. Vidal goes on to say,
Drugs. If they did not exist our governors would have invented them in order to prohibit them and so make much of the population vulnerable to arrest, imprisonment, seizure of property, and so on.
It was just after I watched Steven Spielberg's biopic, Lincoln that I realized the trap set up within the language of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
I know what you're thinking, that amendment is about ABOLISHING slavery. Think again. These days, it's about the language beginning with the word "except." It's ALL about figuring out how to justify slavery and indentured servitude anymore. That's why you see people in bright orange scrubs doing groundskeeping tasks at the state capitol and so many more functions state corrections agencies (all over the country) contract out to private businesses at incredibly low rates.

You think undocumented immigrants are the problem? Think again. Downward pressure on wages comes also from prison labor.

But I digress. My point is that the rising contempt for government is not only a figment of the overactive imagination of the Tea Party. We've also seen an incredibly troubling militarization of law enforcement, justified largely by the quixotic War on Drugs. Not to mention the problem of wrongful convictions.

In the meantime, it is still entirely reasonable to call for rational changes to public policy on the use and availability of firearms. Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly continue to lead the way in that call.

However, I see two things that stand in the way. First, undue Big Money influence over Congress. The need for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling and then passing the American Anti-Corruption Act is immensely urgent. And second, we must reign in the overreach of the surveillance and police state aspects of federal, state and local government. Until then, we will only spin our wheels and see so many more thousands of people killed by gun violence in our country.




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