America’s Killing Fields 

This country’s inability to ban assault weapons takes another 50 victims. Is there a game on?

Another mass killing? Oh well. Isn't there a game on tonight or something?

I figured that a society that can stomach the thought of a murderous lunatic, armed with a Bushmaster XM15, forcing his way into a kindergarten and slaughtering 20 children and six staff members without a massive public outcry is pretty much hopeless. Or if we're not bothered by the delusional Batman fan who caused 82 causalities, including 12 people murdered in their seats by a Smith & Wesson M&P15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. (Just months before, the shooter, who was described as "severely mentally ill," legally purchased his weapons of mass destruction in a local gun store.)

Then there were the two radicalized Muslims, described as "homegrown violent extremists" by the FBI, who murdered 14 and injured 22 in a rampage last December in San Bernardino, California. They used two AR-15-type rifles and two 9 mm semiautomatic pistols, purchased legally by a third conspirator.

And now we get a self-proclaimed ISIS devotee who was on the terrorist watch list and twice investigated by the FBI, who managed to become an accredited security guard and legally purchased the assault rifle used to kill 50 souls and wound 53 others in a gay club in Orlando. The deranged domestic terrorist shot 103 people with a semiautomatic rifle bought in the last 12 days.

click to enlarge Common denominator
  • Common denominator

Does there seem to be a theme emerging? When does it become obvious that no one outside a theater of war should possess such firepower?

In the wake of the carnage in Orlando, it was almost overlooked that the Los Angeles police arrested a man on his way to that city's gay pride parade with a cache of weapons, including three assault rifles with high-capacity magazines and a five-gallon bucket of explosive materials. His Indiana license plate had an NRA sticker with the words "Teaching Freedom" below. Though described as bisexual by a friend, this All-American Terrorist's Facebook page said, "Anti-Islam, Anti-Gay, and Anti-Racism," oddly enough. He also claimed that political correctness is stifling freedom of speech and that 9/11 was an inside job.

If a neighbor had not called police about a prowler, we could have suffered dual massacres on the same day. And the target, in both cases, was the most vulnerable minority group: the LGBT community.

It would seem that hatred and violence know no denomination. Since Obama was elected, he has addressed the nation on 15 separate occasions after an atrocity involving multiple gun deaths. He has pleaded, tried to reason, shown anger, and even wept. What's left for him to say or do?

Since the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) signed by Bill Clinton in 1994 was allowed to expire during the Bush era, random shootings have spiked. A joint letter to Congress from Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan in support of banning "semi-automatic assault guns" has been ignored by today's Tea Party obstructionists. 

Quoting statistics, Clinton said, "Half of all mass killings in the U.S. occurred since 2005 — half of all in the history of the country." The Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2005. Maybe there's a connection here. After Newtown, the AWB was re-introduced, but failed in the GOP-controlled Senate by a vote of 40 to 60.

The human septic tank known as Donald Trump was the first to politicize the Orlando tragedy. Obama and Hillary Clinton each made statements of outrage and condolence and avoided further comment. Trump went on a Twitter frenzy, first saying, "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism. I don't want congrats. I want toughness and vigilance. We must be smart!"

Trump is fond of the exclamation point. But his GOP allies in Congress blocked a bill the day after the San Bernardino slaughter which would have denied people on the terrorist watch list the ability to buy a gun. Bowing to NRA pressure, the Republicans reasoned that Americans who are wrongly on the list should be afforded their constitutional rights. They can't fly, but buying a gun is fine.

Trump then called for Obama to be removed from office for refusing to use the term "radical Islamic terrorism," and Fox News hammered that message all night. Obama has repeatedly explained, "The term 'radical Islam' grants them a religious legitimacy they don't deserve. We are not at war with Islam, we are at war with people who have perverted Islam." George W. Bush said the same thing, only he wasn't a secret Kenyan Muslim.

As expected, the trolls were out on social media saying the same predictable things: "Arm yourselves before they kill us all." The hatred boiled over for Muslims the world over, even though the same people were praising Muhammad Ali just a day before. The Orlando jihadist's ex-wife said he wanted to be a policeman. She also said he beat her and isolated her from others until she was rescued by her family. One of his co-workers said, "I complained multiple times that he didn't like blacks, women, lesbians, and Jews." The wannabe ISIS fighter also said he wished he could kill all black people.

"You meet bigots," the co-worker continued, "but he was above and beyond."

The NRA apologists continue to say, "Enforce the laws already on the books," but obviously they're not effective. Then there's the tired "Don't blame the weapon, it's just a tool," argument. The Assault Weapons Ban may not have done much to put a dent in gun crime, but it might have prevented this slaughter. And Aurora. And San Bernardino. And Sandy Hook.

There is a theory going around in some right-wing circles that Sandy Hook was a hoax perpetrated by the government in order to begin confiscating firearms. Maybe if the Newtown crime-scene photos of children blown to pieces were released, the country might be shocked back into reality. Or maybe not, but has anyone noticed that in eight years, Obama hasn't confiscated a single gun? After this gruesome bloodbath, thoughts and prayers aren't enough. Maybe we need to try stricter laws and regulations instead.

Randy Haspel writes the "Recycled Hippies" blog, where a version of this column first appeared.

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