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America's love affair with firearms is national insanity

It has been 46 years -- nearly a half-century -- since Charles Whitman, a troubled ex-Marine, climbed atop the iconic University of Texas Tower to use it as a staging zone for a shooting spree. He killed 16 people on and around the campus, including his wife and mother.

The nation, while sobered by a second World War and stunned by escalating political turmoil, was still naive in many ways back then -- halfway through a violent decade that would rend the political and social fabric. The youthful president, John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated just three years before. It's no surprise that Whitman's massacre horrified Americans from coast to coast.

But in the years since, we've adjusted too well to the armed madmen in our midst. A massacre on a college campus barely garners notice outside its immediate locale. Last week, when disgruntled ex-student One Goh allegedly opened fire in a classroom of Oakland's tiny Oikos University, killing seven and wounding three others, the news drew low-key coverage outside California. After all, it was just the latest of several campus shootings so far this year.

And Whitman seems an amateur by current standards of senseless carnage. In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 25 at Virginia Tech. By then, of course, the 1999 Colombine High School massacre, during which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 before committing suicide, had long since faded from the news.

Cho came from an immigrant family, but his massacre suggests how thoroughly American he was. (The same is true of Goh, if he is, as suspected, the perpetrator.) Other countries have generated a few homicidal lunatics, but murderous frenzies by gun-toting maniacs are a particularly American form of madness.

And that madness is stoked and sheltered, nurtured and fed by another kind of crazy -- a widespread denial about the price of our love affair with firearms, a disbelief that borders on delusion. Future historians will look back on the nation's refusal to enact sensible gun regulations with a wry fascination, much as present-day researchers ponder witch-burnings.

We weren't always so irrational about gun ownership, though firearms were a more utilitarian household item 40 years ago, when more families hunted game for sport -- and for the dinner table. In 1968, after nearly a decade of high-profile political assassinations, Congress passed the most stringent firearms regulations since the 1930s, despite the vigorous protests of the gun lobby.

In the intervening years, though, the gun lobby has only grown more powerful -- and more radical and more unhinged -- pushing past the limits of sanity. Its activists have battled to allow firearms on college campuses, in bars and in churches. Its members have persuaded state legislatures to pass notorious "Stand Your Ground" laws, such as the Florida statute implicated in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

All the while, voters have either acquiesced or applauded heartily. In some countries, the Republican Party's whole-hearted embrace of the gun lobby's reckless radicalism might have sparked a countermove by the opposition party. Not here. The Democratic Party caved in after Al Gore lost to George Bush in 2000 -- convinced (based on little to no evidence) that Gore's support for more stringent gun control measures was partly to blame.

It came as no surprise, then, that the shooting spree last year in which Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was grievously wounded and six others, including a 9-year-old girl, were killed sparked no serious outcry for sensible gun regulations. Certainly, President Obama was silent on the subject.

Despite that, the lunatic fringe continues to insist that Obama has a secret plan to confiscate their firearms. Did I mention that the lunatic fringe includes well-heeled lobbyists who frequent the corridors of power, such as National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre?

At a February meeting of ultraconservatives, LaPierre revealed Obama's secret plan to ... well, read it yourself:

"Lip service to gun owners is just part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters ... We see the president's strategy crystal clear: Get re-elected and, with no more elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms' freedom, erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and excise it from the U.S. Constitution."

That's the very definition of crazy.

Cynthia Tucker can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.

Comments

justme 2 years, 5 months ago

The National Rifle Association cares not where the bullet lands, so long as the till is filled.

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msa651 2 years, 5 months ago

You just have to look at Albany, almost 100% of the reports where guns are used are by criminals. Think by restricting ownership would change that? Same old arguments that have never proved right in the past. Cities that have tried that have shown that the only ones with guns then are the government and the criminals. And the killings go on. When it takes 20 min for the police to show, you can only depend on yourself.

These same old arguments do work.

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budcollier1956 2 years, 5 months ago

Cynthia Tucker is absolutely correct, the obsession with guns in America is crazy. The only problem with her whole argument is her naive recognition of the reality just outside her door. Just as Sunday a young black ASU student walked into the hospital with a T-shirt stating " Vicious with no mercy", the Albany herald records daily armed home intrusions, robberies, car jackings, bar stabbings, rapes, murders, shoot outs with AK47's and kids discharging firearms outside my office at 8:00 in the morning, not in Atlanta or Beruit but here in the mis-termed "good life city". It is for the want of morality and any sense of sense of base humanity in the city that I as a God fearing, law abiding, family man will not leave my house without a prayer for my kids and 15 rounds locked and loaded on my belt. If Cynthia wants to champion a cause, start with the kid "vicious with no mercy" which causes the rest of us to be "packing with no options"

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 5 months ago

Hey why don't we outlaw drugs too while we're at it? That should really make a big difference!! And also fighting and killing and stabbing (knives outlawed) and big cement blocks.

But maybe it's the people who are the problem, not the "weapon of choice".

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Jacob 2 years, 5 months ago

So Obama's silence means that he is afraid of the gun lobby, or he is now a suporter of the 2nd amemdment?

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Holli 2 years, 5 months ago

Being a small framed female with a young child and one on the way, I feel the need to protect my family while my husband is on travel with work. I do not think that I am considered crazy. Since obtaining my concealed carry I have purchased a few guns. I refuse to become a victim in this "Good Life City," and I will not allow someone to enter my home with my child inside and only be armed with a phone to call the police. It is a known fact that when a criminal feels threatened they become the most violent. If they know you are calling the police, they will try to stop you. That is how my friend got her jaw blown off while watching her mother get shot to death. The man thought he killed my friend, and knew her mother was dead. Unfortunately that same man that committed such a violent act was set free after ten years. He obtained another gun and killed an elderly woman while trying to rob her when she reached for the phone to call police. If any of those people would have been armed, someone could have put a stop to two murders and a lifelong stint in rehab for correctional surgeries and speech therapy.

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TitoFTW 2 years, 5 months ago

This article is insanity. More liberal anti-gun BS. We are all dumber now for having read this article. If you want to be an unarmed sheep, a would-be victim, then that's your right. I choose to arm myself in order to protect myself, my family, and others, and that's my right. An armed society is a polite society. "the lunatic fringe continues to insist that Obama has a secret plan to confiscate their firearms."...funny, because that seems to be one of the points you're attempting to make in this scaaaary article....that we should all be disarmed for our own good. Well, Ms. Tucker, "from my cold dead hand."

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