The recent blizzard, one of many heavy snowstorms this year, rages all around in whiteout conditions, biting cold, and a strong wind. I turn the snowblower off in the middle of my rural driveway to turn away from the sting of the blowing snow and I hear something unexpected in the deepening power of this latest storm. Coming directly from the south, about four miles away, is the sound of repeated gunfire. I think that perhaps hunters have ventured into the winter forest to hunt deer in the midst of the ferocious snow, but suddenly it occurs to me that a local gun range is located precisely in the direction from which the sound of gunfire is coming. I have heard it many, many times before, but think again at how unusual it is for anyone to be firing a gun during the height of such a storm.
If an imaginary line could be drawn beyond the gun range farther to the south, perhaps an hour and a half away, then a person would arrive in Newtown, Connecticut, the scene of the most shocking gun violence in the history of the U.S. On December 14, 2012, 26 elementary school children and school staff lost their lives when Adam Lanza entered the school and murdered these innocent children and the adults who educated and cared for them. The particulars of the horror and the horror of its aftermath are well known. The President, Barack Obama, visibly shaken by the horror that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, tried, but failed in his attempts to produce a meaningful response to the massacre, but the pushback from the gun lobby stopped any attempts to change the availability of guns and who can own guns. States such as Connecticut and New York were more successful at enacting restrictions on guns. The Trump administration has already begun a pushback against gun regulation that resulted from that massacre and other gun massacres. Now, the mentally ill will have access to guns.
The gun lobby would not rest or miss a beat in their well-orchestrated display of heartless pandering to the lie that more guns, and particularly more guns in public places like schools, would make those using public spaces safer. A pro-gun group attempted to descend on Newtown shorty after the horror of Sandy Hook and use a local coffee shop as a meeting place, but the business would not allow that meeting to take place. And of course, the predictable surge in gun sales took place, as happens after every massacre when the purchase of guns skyrockets, purportedly as a response to feared new gun regulations.
But something more horrific took place following the massacre; something of remarkable outrageousness!
The Los Angeles Times published “In an age of ‘alternative facts,’ a massacre of schoolchildren is called a hoax” (February 3, 2017). The article reported that the family of slain 6-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary School student, Noah Pozner, has been subjected to grotesque cruelties such as receiving “hate-filled calls and violent emails.” The demented sadists who send this garbage to those who have suffered unbelievable grief are among people, who in their lust and love for the Second Amendment and unbridled gun ownership, relentlessly attack those who would bring sane regulations to gun ownership in the U.S. They claim that the horrific shooting was a hoax and have produced photos of Noah with “pornographic and anti-Semitic content” that have found their way onto far-Right websites.
A web program called Infowars, by Alex Jones, “pushed the theory that Sandy Hook was staged by Democrats to advance a gun control agenda.” Jones, a Trump supporter, got a personal thank you from then-candidate Trump for his campaign support.
Some believe that when a culture of fear and conspiracy theories take hold in a society then beliefs of the most extreme and outrageous can be a result of these delusions. Noah Pozner’s father states in the Los Angeles Times article that “They’ve been emboldened,” speaking of those who have spread conspiracy theories about the shootings at Sandy Hook.
Those who traffic in hate and delusions have targeted others involved in the massacre. A prisoner in a New York jail harassed the medical examiner in Connecticut who signed the coroner reports of the victims of the massacre.
In yet another incident related to the Sandy Hook massacre, a Brooklyn New York man interrupted a memorial service for a slain teacher. The list of indecent actions toward survivors of Sandy Hook goes on and on. People who have suffered beyond the boundaries of anything that most people can even begin to imagine have been forced to witness their right to privacy and private grief destroyed.
The conspiracy theorists seem to flourish when Democrats have a majority or occupy one or more branches of the federal government and those who truck in conspiracy theories feel that the Second Amendment is threatened. They go as far, in one conspiracy theory of the massacre, to push the idea that hundreds of people were involved in a conspiracy to produce a Sandy Hook hoax that involved bringing in actors to stage the horror of that day on film.
An acquaintance, an economics professor, says that threatening to take away or limit the Second Amendment is “like taking away their penises.” His observations, however, do not include a minority of those who own guns who are women with extreme beliefs about gun ownership and a visceral hatred of gun regulations. I am not referring to those who own guns to hunt or who collect guns. But there is a part of the gun lobby and gun owners who believe that guns are the way to settle disputes. They have been successful in places like Florida where the idea of falling back in a dispute has been replaced by the idea of “stand your ground,” which means that if a person feels threatened and that person has a gun, then its use is justified.
The Watergate debacle exposed the idea that it was money that mattered. The admonition of Watergate’s Deep Throat to “follow the money,” is reflected in “NRA Gun Control Crusade Reflects Firearms Industry Financial Ties” (The Huffington Post, January 23, 2014). The article documents that the gun industry is a $12-billion-a-year enterprise. The NRA has about 4 million members, some of whom, however, are in favor of reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. Always in the shadow of the NRA are dog whistle politics—the idea that people need to arm themselves as protection against minorities in the U.S., particularly African-Americans. The latter leads in a direct line back to Jim Crow.
What happened at Sandy Hook has its place in a very long line of horrific murders that have come out of the frontier ethos of gun ownership and the machismo and profit that have accompanied this vanished and romanticized 19th-century world. Many have observed that the U.S. lost its soul as a result of the violent horrors that took place during the Vietnam War. I believe that the grotesque massacres of the innocent at Sandy Hook, at Virginia Tech, at Columbine High, at San Bernardino, and at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, among so many others, represent the total extinction of that soul among those who value violence above peace.
The connection of accepting a level of violence on the streets is met, to a degree, with the acceptance of violence overseas. Since the terror attacks of September 2001, it has become acceptable for the majority to acquiesce to endless and expanding wars and celebrate militarism, although the celebration of militarism seems to have lessened in recent years. Here, too, fortunes have been made.
The late Israeli chemist and human rights activist, Israel Shahak, believed that a minority of people in many societies plan and enjoy murder (a paraphrase). How many more people can this minority of extremists who enjoy murder get to go along with them?