I think it is important to acknowledge that the national Rifle Association did not create this country’s gun culture. It began when white Europeans waded out of the Atlantic Ocean and settled on Indian land. The indigenous people reacted violently to this invasion. This influx of white people wasn’t the result of sophisticated real estate deals and miniature Louisiana Purchases. The white settlers illegally grabbed or were sold the land they coveted by rich land speculators and they farmed it with a loaded flintlock leaning within reach arm’s reach.
You might say the pope began our gun culture. He certainly gets an assist, to use a sports term. In “Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment,” author Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz explains how a mid-15th century papal bull, the Doctrine of Discovery, gave Portugal permission to attack West Africa for the enslavement of its people and their resources. To other European monarchs, this legitimized slavery. Slaves were needed to keep the crops in the colonies flourishing, but once the slave ships began to unload on the banks of the New World, the colonists opened a war with two fronts. The genocide of the Indian tribes met fierce resistance and slave rebellions were added to the colonial security concerns.
The settlers quickly demanded safety and soon, adult men were not allowed in public places without firearms. Church was no exception. Taxes were levied on farmers who did not have the proper amounts of guns and powder. Slave patrols brutally kept the slaves in line and working while the government pushed the tribes across the Mississippi River.
As manifest destiny wormed its way across the continent, organizations like the Klu Klux Klan and Texas Rangers were spawned. Former Confederate guerrillas who fought with Quantrill, a known Confederate homegrown terrorist, became outlaws and the myth of the Wild West was born. The James Brothers, so-called American Robin Hoods, robbed and killed in Missouri and never saw the West, but myths care little for the mundane facts. With the Indians on the run, the march to the Pacific meant starting and winning an illegal war with Mexico. Soon our land stretched from sea to shining sea, as the song goes.
Telling children of this century that putting down their video games, violent movies and graphic novels will end the current reign of gun terror is just more propaganda. Guns may not be needed now, but the right to bear arms was codified in white citizens’ DNA long before the ink on our beloved Constitution had dried.
When faced with the howl for gun control, which is supported overwhelmingly by a concerned citizenry, we see the same reaction as when Civil War icons come under attack; wave the flag and walk around brandishing the latest military weapons. Why? Because we didn’t kill all the Indians and Mexicans and the slaves somehow became citizens, so these groups need a not-so-friendly reminder of where their place in a white society lies. And we still needed immigrants for cheap labor.
White males comprise about 80 percent of the NRA membership. Slowly shrinking into a minority themselves, white politics became a white supremacy movement.
The hard reality of the gun issue is that we as a country have become comfortable with guns (300 million and counting) and accustomed to endless wars in our name and supposedly for our best interests. Promoting our own brand of democracy as well as protecting our global economic interests have made the U.S. weapons industry a huge business. By supposedly keeping our society “safe,” we as a people have tacitly agreed to the endless slaughter of people in other countries far away. Our domestic statistics are miniscule when compared to the millions killed by our bombs and drones overseas.
The NRA’s latest mantra, “The only guy who can stop a bad man with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” sounds logical until one asks what “good” means. Countless religions and philosophies have debated that concept. Surely lobbyists like the NRA with vested interest shouldn’t be the ones to decide. The clergy could vouch for a parishioner’s moral rectitude, but what about the atheists, the agnostics, the gays, those who don’t subscribe to a particular set of tenets?
Democracy is good, but only if you allow all citizens to vote. Voting is good until state legislatures are allowed to gerrymander their districts to favor one party over the other and then the personal vote becomes a moot point. Background checks that infringe on privacy is a bad thing.
Politicians are quick to say that slaughtering children is a mental health problem, but our GOP-led Congress recently passed a bill saying the mentally ill can’t be excluded from purchasing weapons of mass destruction.
We currently live in a violent world, but only the weapons have changed since our national love affair with guns began.