|Download PDF of this full issue: v43n1.pdf (21.1 MB)|
"Violence is as American as Cherry Pie!"
By Horace Coleman
"Violence is as American as cherry pie!" H. Rap Brown, a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and, later, a short term Black Panther and a convicted murderer, said that. Rap was right. Who spends more money on national defense? No one. Who is the planet's largest arms dealer? US! What country has the most privately owned guns? This one.
Almost any thing can be a toy, a tool or a weapon. Firearms fit that definition. They have valid uses: target/skeet shooting, hunting, protection of self and family, etc.
This year NPR ran a series of stories about gun violence. Guns and rifles are a big part of everyday life in Wyoming. And, many residents have been directly impacted by a suicide in which a gun was used. The state has the highest suicide rate in the nation, two-thirds of Wyoming's suicides are by firearm. Wyoming's per capita rate suicide is one of the world's highest. Another NPR story stated suicides, not homicides, cause two thirds of US gun deaths. The Los Angeles Times ran a story about 26-year-old Brandon Maxfield, a quadriplegic since age seven. A babysitting family friend tried to unload a .380 Saturday Night Special a 12-year-old relative found in an unlocked drawer. The gun that crippled young Maxfield jammed when its safety was on and the slide was pulled back. Its manufacturer knew this but decided not to spend the nickel per gun it would cost to fix. So many cheap hand guns were once made near Los Angeles the region acquired the nickname The Ring of Fire.
US culture esteems firearms Many phrases reflect that. Like "half cocked," "quick on the draw," "straight shooter," "flash in the pan," "couldn't hit the broad side of a barn," "cool under fire," "the equalizer." As recently as the Vietnam War, Injun Country was used to describe areas where "hostiles" were.
Just weeks after the massacre of 20 children and six adults in Connecticut, a disgruntled, fired black Los Angeles policeman named Christopher Dorner went on a rampage. He shot and killed the daughter of a police officer, who represented him at a dismissal hearing, and her fiancee. He posted a ranting diatribe on Facebook. At random, he shot and killed a Riverside, CA police officer and wounded the officer with him. When LAPD officers guarding the home of an officer on Dorner's hit list saw a truck without lights on early one morning, they opened fire on two Latina women delivering newspapers, even though their truck didn't match the make or color of Dorner's. The 71-year-old mother was shot twice in the back, and her daughter was wounded by flying glass. Houses in the neighborhood were hit by bullets. In an adjacent city where Dorner supposedly was, officers in a prowl car rammed a truck with its lights on?driven by a white male. They opened fire. Luckily its driver was only wounded by flying glass. Dorner, finally cornered at a resort miles from Los Angeles, had night vision goggles and rifles converted to full automatic equipped with telescopic sights and sound suppressors. And, mucho ammo. The televised fire fight sounded like a war zone. Dorner killed two more law enforcement officers. Combustible tear gas known to start fires was used. The house he was in caught fire. Dorner shot himself in the head. A white ex member of the LAPD said in a TV interview he'd been unfairly fired, hearings were often rigged, injustices frequent.
So it goes. You never can tell who's going to take a shot at you. Or, who you need to shoot. We like it that way, it's the American way. But most of us won't get combat pay. Nevertheless, we know what we want to do - When in doubt, take 'em out!
Nationally, we still haven't grown up. Gun violence is in our movies, TV shows, video games, songs, hearts, minds, history and daily news. Even if we don't like that we put up with it because some folks want to protect themselves from the government. With guns.
There's always some kind of rust you can trust. In the meantime, keep your powder dry.
Horace Coleman was an Air Force air traffic controller/intercept director in Vietnam (1967-68).