Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bang the gun slowly

(I could pick many fitting examples at random, as you can see from today's news … I choose these):

On Saturday, police say, an Iraq War veteran shot and killed two other veterans at a Texas shooting range. They included Chris Kyle, a renowned Iraqi War veteran (author of "American Sniper," an account of his unprecedented success killing the enemy) who had devoted his civilian life to helping other veterans. 

He and Chad Littlefield had apparently been trying to help Eddie Ray Routh, a Marine reported to be suffering from post-tramautic stress disorder. Target shooting can be part of "exposure therapy" for afflicted veterans, affording them the familiarity of guns, and the cacophony — if not the danger and dizzying horror — of battle, to throttle back their anxieties as they return to the world.

Routh allegedly shot Kyle and Littlefield with a semiautomatic pistol, then fled in Kyle's pickup truck before he was captured near his home.

We elect leaders who fabricate causes for war — a tragic habit in my lifetime — and we go along with the plan, calling dissenters un-American. Next we count on a fraction of less than 1 percent of our fellow citizens to prosecute that war; we set it and forget it, forget them. The result not only costs us trillions of dollars we could spend on our crumbling society, but shreds the bodies and minds and hearts of the warriors who fight — and return to fight, time and again — in our stead. But we can't or won't give them the jobs, can't give them the breaks on their financial obligations while they're fighting for us, can't give warriors like Chris Kyle the support he needs to administer true healing to his brothers and sisters in arms — can't give Eddy Ray Routh aid and comfort. We count on Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield to do that for us.

And a gun was supposed to give him comfort.
Last week sometime in a foothill town two hours from here, a man shot and killed his teen son and daughter, then killed himself, sheriff's authorities report. The children were found shot in the head, sitting on a couch, and may have been sleeping.

The father Philip Marshall, had been a pilot who said he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and the Drug Enforcement Administration, and wrote books describing what he called a Saudi conspiracy behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. Divorce and child custody issues with his ex-wife had been contentious.
It's impossible to know the depths and degree of anger, despair, delusion, disillusionment, rage, impairment — impossible to know what unleashed this devastation. Except that it did, and a gun solved it.
On Sunday, The Sacramento Bee wrote extensively about the Lemon Hill section of South Sacramento, telling the not-uncommon account of a community in fear of guns. Residents spoke of hearing gunfire daily … of forbidding their children from playing in parks for fear of gunfire … of school providing brief safe haven from the drugs and crimes and gunfire. 

Several residents told Bee reporters they doubted gun control would help them, because the guns on these streets are likely illegal, stolen, untraced and untraceable. Criminals will still get the guns, these residents said.
[By the way, when we lose newspapers such as The Sacramento Bee, we lose their power to stand up for us in matters that matter. We lose their power to be the Fourth Estate, our watchdog.

[Many readers badmouth The Bee — that's a newspaper's lot — but Bee reporters found suspicious conduct in tests on the safety of the new Bay Bridge under construction … and discovered more than $50 million in taxpayer funds that California State Parks officials squirreled away while parks were closing over budget shortfalls (money, by the way, that individual parks can't get in cash, only in in-kind service, because doing so under state law would constitute an unconstitutional gift. thank you, squirrel-brained parks officials …) … among many other costly secrets that would have remained secrets without the reporters' vigilance.

[But. I. Digress.]

On tour of the Sacramento Underground this week, a fourth grader asked if people in Gold Rush Sacramento had guns.

"Oh yes," I said.

"Oh," he said. "You know what? I'm a hunter."

He wasn't bragging or taking a stand, just relating to a historical discovery. It was the result, I take it, of a family discussion which concluded that reasonable people can own guns.

When it comes to solving the gun crisis — wherever you stand, it's a crisis — I'm well toward the back of the line with a working solution. It isn't long before the complexity of gun use, gun crime and gun ownership in America makes me weary, makes me marvel at those who carry on in hopes of drafting a solution.

What I know — what I've always known — is that if nothing is done, then Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield, a distraught family in the quiet Sierra foothills, a hellish city neighborhood are the prices we will continue to pay for it.

We must ask if that's what we accept.

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