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Political Animal

The Guns of Spring

By Brian Morton | Posted 4/15/2009

There's something about April.

In mid-April two years ago, a mentally ill Seung Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured 25 more in a gun-fueled massacre at Virginia Tech. Ten years ago this April, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 and injured 24 in their shooting spree at Columbine High School. In April 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City as a protest against the raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms on David Koresh's compound in Waco, Texas, which also happened on April 19. Koresh, of course, had stockpiled almost 250 guns and rifles at the compound, including a number of semi-automatic military assault weapons modified to fire on full auto.

April seems to bring out the loons, the macho, the aggrieved, and the paranoid. The wind changes and so apparently does the brain chemistry of the people who think the government is after them, that everyone hates them, that a closet full of AK-47s is the only thing keeping the black helicopters from landing on the lawn.

The gun is always the best friend of those who feel they've been pushed around and set-upon by society. And then, of course, there are those who say that the answer to this kind of violence is . . . more guns. "More guns, less crime," wrote the now-discredited "researcher" John Lott, who was laughed off the internet and, in the words of Newsweek magazine, "been shown the door at some of the nation's finest schools." The NRA once pushed for carrying concealed weapons (CCW) laws in Colorado on the premise that if everyone was secretly armed, nobody would rob anyone, because you'd never know who was carrying. Once it got what it wanted, the NRA then argued against the names of CCW permit holders being public record, because then the criminals would know whom to rob for their guns. Wait--what happened to their first premise?

Right now, guns are a hot item in stores because the gun lobby is (as it always is when Democrats win the White House) ginning up the fear that liberals will take all the guns away. Three cops died in Pittsburgh on April 4 at the hands of an AK-47-wielding nut who thought Barack Obama was going to take his guns.

Then of course, there's this:

The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.

That was Timothy McVeigh speaking to Southern Methodist University student journalist Michelle Rauch outside Koresh's Waco compound in April '93, before the ATF siege. Note how little different it sounds from the current language of unhinged Fox News host Glenn Beck or GOP Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota.

Combine fear, guns, and invertebrate lawmakers scared of the gun lobby, shake vigorously, and you've got the recipe for April in America, where there will be more mass shootings and nothing more done about them. Bill Clinton sounded the final bell on gun control efforts at the start of 2001 when he told USA Today that guns were the issue that allowed George Bush to beat Al Gore. This was despite the NRA losing 11 of 12 contests in which it got involved during that election. But the power of perception beats the reality every time, and since then, hardly any politico in America wants to touch the subject of guns, Barack Obama included.

But like Martin Luther King in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" assailing the moderates of the era for dragging their feet on desegregation, the blame for the continuing explosion of gun violence lies with the vast majority of Americans, with their short attention spans and too quickly cooled outrage after each shooting. The NRA has a policy of clamming up after nearly every shooting spree, and its friends in Congress and the media almost reflexively repeat a mantra about "not politicizing a tragedy," even when the tragedy could be solved by political action. Then, when the shootings are forgotten, the quiet work of hollowing out the nation's already weak gun laws continues apace. No wonder they always say that gun laws don't work: This is what happens when you don't pay attention.

So we might as well prepare for another long spring of intemperate language and aggrieved lunatics, armed and ready to snap at moment's provocation, be it anything from creeping "socialism" to a domestic spat. There will always be someone claiming that more guns in the hands of untrained civilians could stop a tragedy, as if we live in some Luc Besson movie where everyman is suddenly the Transporter, who never misses and always saves the day by shooting the shooter.

Yup, it's April. Here we go again.

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