The price of whose freedom?
“It was like a video game only it was real,” a witness to the Las Vegas carnage told National Public Radio in the aftermath of the nation’s latest “largest mass shooting in history.”
The man had been seated in a bar on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Resort and Casino when the shooting began, targeting a nearby music festival packed with fans. He and his companion could see terrified people running for cover. They watched victims fall. They saw blood flowing.
Maybe the eyewitness had to tell himself the shooting was real not only because it was too random and vicious to believe, but also because gun violence is a real and major part of American culture. We see it every day in popular entertainment and in headlines. If we live in economically depressed areas, it’s happening around us.
When you wake up to a headline such as “Fifty-nine killed, hundreds wounded in nation’s largest mass shooting,” it’s just another morning in America. Depending on your personality, you either shrug and move on to the next story or weep and curse the gun lobby that writes and enacts — through elected surrogates — the nation’s firearm policies.
Just a week before Stephen Paddock — an older white recluse with a massive stash of guns — went on his inexplicable shooting spree, a congressional committee voted once again on legislation to deregulate silencers, although you’d never guess that from the name of bill: the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act.
Law-enforcement officials call it a disaster. Imagine how much greater the toll in Las Vegas would have been if no one could have heard the shots ringing out around them.
Meanwhile, the gun laws here in Wisconsin are considered among the loosest in the nation. State law does not require a gun license or permit for the purchase of shotguns, rifles, handguns or other firearms.
Republican state legislators recently advanced a bill that would allow nearly everyone to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public without any safety training or even a simple background check. Also tucked into that bill is a provision that would permit felons and domestic-abuse suspects to own “antique” firearms — those manufactured before 1899. Under the law, felons and domestic abusers subject to restraining orders could own single-shot muskets and pistols, lever-action rifles, revolvers, early semiautomatic rifles and handguns.
Maybe they’re domestic abusers, but that’s no reason to interfere with their gun collections, the thinking goes.
The “antique” firearm provision is quite a change from current Wisconsin law, which prevents felons from owning firearms for the rest of their lives. It also forces most people under restraining orders to surrender theirs.
It’s not just Republican lawmakers who are following the dictates of the formidable gun lobby.
In March, the GOP-majority Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Madison’s Metro Transit could no longer forbid firearms on public buses. The majority was elected with the help of obscenely large donations from Republican corporate-rights groups — the ones that want to eliminate nearly all of the nation’s regulations limiting the ability of Big Business to do whatever it likes in the pursuit of greater profits.
And that’s what this is all about — money. The massive profits made by the firearm and munitions industry fund donations to supportive legislators and a propaganda machine that whips Americans into a religious-like ferver over the industry’s interpretation of the Second Amendment.
The guns and munitions industry has made an average of $11 billion annually over the past eight years, according to sources, including state game and fish departments, the IRS and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The industry’s sales rise by double digits nearly every year.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are now between 270 million and 310 million guns, including semiautomatic weapons, in the United States. What justifies so much firepower?
Bill O’Reilly said that the slaughter in Las Vegas is “the price we pay for freedom.” But what about the price that the 30,000 Americans who are killed by firearms each year and their loved ones pay for such “freedom”?