Saturday, February 24, 2018


The most closely controlled guns in America are military guns.  We don’t think of that.  Both my brothers were Marines and earned Marksman medals.  They would confirm this.  Yet in the Forties we all played guns, saw guns shoot people, owned guns and shot guns from an early age, beginning with “Daisy Mae”, the .bb gun sponsored by Red Ryder. (Now you can buy them in pink online.  In my day girls weren’t supposed to shoot guns.)  My brothers were not drafted — they enlisted during the draft times.

We had long guns for hunting and my mother kept a handgun in her nightstand because my father traveled for a living.  Even as taken-for-granted as all this, boot camp gun training was a whole different level.  Far from buying a big gun at Walmart and shooting up people a week later with no practice — using ammo that explodes human organs and only hits targets who are huddled or frozen, and then only spray-style like mafia on television shows — the military will impress upon the soldier that a gun is only as powerful as the person operating it.  He will be tested, inspected, and qualified on a gun he is assigned and expected to master.

One dis-assembles it, cleans it, reassembles it, so many times that it is an extension of the person so completely that it is likely to be called by a human name, usually female.  It is sighted in, oiled, stored safely.  The operator is calm, steady, focused and has practiced shooting more times than a ghetto kid practises making baskets on a community court in summer.  Both brain and muscles are educated.

Even so, I knew a man who carried all his life the burden of killing in error. He was guarding a perimeter at boot camp when a young man made a run to desert.  The sergeant yelled at my friend to shoot him, saying if he didn’t, he would shoot my friend.  Aiming at the boy’s legs, as he had taught and intended, he was devastated when the boy dived forward so that the bullet severed his spine, killing him.  My friend was not blamed nor prosecuted — just mustered out quietly and warned to tell no one.  Even with precautions, training, skill, and intentions, bad things happen.  

A good friend was shot by his three-year-old when the father turned away for a moment.  The gun was on the coffee table and the toddler had watched his dad sighting it around the room.  His baby hands were barely strong enough to pull the trigger while it lay on the table.

When I “rode shotgun” with Bob Scriver, I went hunting with him but not as a fellow shooter.  I was the “dog” who beat the brush to spook out whatever was there.  I fetched and carried and if the weather were warm and the water was shallow, I waded out into prairie ponds to retrieve both the dead and the wounded fallen waterfowl.  Also, I cooked and ate them, and the same went for deer.  The shooting took only a few seconds — the preparation and planning and gutting and packing out took all the rest of the day.

The corners of the studio were always stacked with historic guns for reference.  Most were beautiful, carefully made, works of art in themselves.  They should have been in a locked cabinet to protect them from dust and damage.  One was made from scratch by a local high school teacher and a border patrolman, who melted the brass on a charcoal fire in a barbecue kit powered by the hairdryer “borrowed” from a wife.  Guns were domestic.

In the evening we often visited Hubert Bartlett, the lumberman, in his little shack outside town where he reloaded ammo.  The place smelled of black powder and strong coffee.  Hubert claimed he had high-powered combat guns greased, sealed in plastic and buried out back on the prairie.  It might have been true, but it would have been an expensive thing to do and Hubert didn’t have a big profit margin.  What he had was enough to live on only because he moved his lumber over the Rockies in the middle of the night when he was unlikely to be pulled over by the highway patrol who would impose fines.

Those were the John Birch years and men wore cufflinks that looked like intercontinental missiles to show how tough and defiant they were.  Except I never knew any veterans who even wore shirts with French cuffs, much less signifying cufflinks.  Cowboys wear shirts with pearl-snaps.  Politicians use laundries for their shirts and accumulate cufflinks so pandering people will be impressed.  (Did you see that Trump has his French cuffs embroidered with the number “45” — maybe he should add a question mark.)

So Trump thinks that if there were more guns and guards, the schools will be safer, but this time around there WAS a guard with a gun, but a gun is no braver than the man holding it and he failed to enter the building to shoot the shooter.  The shooter escaped by mingling with the other kids — he could not be distinguished once he stopped shooting.  Ever hear the term “friendly fire” when one’s own side is killed by one’s own bullets?

Guns are a “magic solution.”  So believed both the shooter and Trump.  But no wonder the cabinet generals are beginning to wonder whether their work can be done.  They can not cure a person whose mind is in chaos.  They can not “make safe” a person firing a gun.  Safety is all in the preparation ahead of time and the outcome on reflection afterwards, but studying mass shootings is forbidden by law.

Here’s some news for you:

In the immediate aftermath of the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee quietly rejected an amendment that would have allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the underlying causes of gun violence.

Lobbyists for the NRA managed this demonically nonsensical legislation because they were afraid those who study the problem would blame the availability of guns and therefore cut into sales.  What are the names of these legislators?  Who were these lobbyists?  Why are they not vilified?

Friday News: NRA, CPAC Go Full “John Birch Society”; “Nasty, Brutish and Trump”; Fairfax County School Board Adopts Resolution on Combating Gun Violence

The John Birch Society used to be against Communism.  I guess by now they’ve forgotten that the USSR’s soviet ideas still exist in Russia and Putin is the new Stalin. 

Welch named the new organization after John Birch, an American Baptist missionary and military intelligence officer who was shot and killed by communist forces in China in August 1945, shortly after the conclusion of World War II. Welch claimed that Birch was an unknown but dedicated anti-communist, and the first American casualty of the Cold War. Jimmy Doolittle, who met Birch after bailing out over China following the Tokyo Raid, said in his autobiography that he was certain that Birch "would not have approved" of that particular use of his name.  (Wikipedia)

At one point, the John Birchers were considered far right nut-cases and the mainstream Republicans wanted to get rid of them.  One could make a case for the idea that the real goal  -- nearly reached now -- of the John Birch Society was the destruction of the dignified, conservative core of the Republican party.  How did they manage it?  Money.  Why?   

Here’s a song for you.   "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues".

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