military weapons

Norm Shifts, NRA & Florida

Though a life-long proponent of peaceful solutions and a firm believer in diplomacy, reluctantly, I still have to be rational about that weapons, in one shape or another, will always be a part of human history.

The photo above is from the political unrest in Bangkok, Thailand in 2009. I was there on a press trip and instead of traveling to the far north in accordance with our busy itinerary, the government agency responsible for our safety determined it was unsafe to leave the capital. We were told that the risk for military action to bridle the increasingly violent demonstrators was imminent. And so, they checked us back in at the Intercontinental, a most comfortable detention center, I might add.

A while back, I wrote about how bewildered I was with all the norm shifts I notice each time I visit the United States. That I often feel that the country I grew up has changed more drastically than those living there seem to grasp. Obviously, some changes are evolutionary and stem from cultural, financial, scientific and technological development in society. But some of the new behaviors and opinions represent truly dramatic shifts. Yet they have permeated the collective consciousness so subtly, almost sneakily across years or decades, that few seem to take notice. Instead, many unabashedly subscribe to these new norms so wholeheartedly, that everything preceding them instantly becomes unrecognizable and even weird. That’s happening right here in Sweden with cash being displaced by Swish and other phone payements and the popular credit card swipe. Today I rarely see any cash, let alone pay with it.

One of the most current and dramatic norm shifts in the US is how increasingly normal it has become for Americans to not only buy weapons, but to also openly carry handguns (like in Texas, where it’s perfectly legal). How has this norm shift come about? Is it “smart” and persistent marketing from gun manufacturers? The National Rifle Association’s tireless campaigning to seduce their members into thinking that only when a Glock G19, S & W 38 Special or an Uzi is in the hands of all red-blooded Americans from age 9, can we secure the country’s long-term existens? Or, is it perhaps the media that through sensationalistic/exploitive reporting has managed to hypnotize folks into thinking that they really do need an AK-47 under their bed and an advanced alarm and CCTV system installed in their homes to feel safe and sleep well at night?

While the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms, the right to buy military grade rifles and other weapons clearly designed for shooting en masse, was surely not what the founding fathers had in mind back in 1791.

I can’t wrap my head around how so many folks in the US feel so strongly about their right to own military grade firearms at home yet don’t make the connection to the country’s increasing mass killings. Have these shootings become the new norm and with them the tolerance to buy and own such powerful weaponry?

In my opinion, it’s still too easy to a) sell these types of weapons to consumers and b) to let anyone with a valid driver’s license walk into a hardware store, a gun and ammo shop, or, even a Walmart, and literelly within minutes, leave with a weapon so powerful, they could use it to kill dozens if not hundreds of people in a matter of minutes.

And this boggles my mind even more: if you’re at one of the many, many gun shows spread across the US in the course of a year, a background check isn’t even required!

To add insult to injury, here’s a few of the questions someone looking to leave the gun store with an assault rifle under his or her arm needs to answer:

• Have you ever been convicted of a felony?• Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?
• Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any other depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
• Are you a fugitive from justice?
• Have you ever been committed to a mental institution?

How can questions like these possibly be intended to smoke out and prevent consumers with nefarious intentions from buying a seriously potent firearm?

I’m both sad and bewildered. As a father and a human being, I feel so much empathy for the many parents and families that have lost loved ones in the recent Florida school shooting. How many more massacres before the NRA, Congress and interest groups sponsor a bill that to begin with removes military grade weapons from consumer store shelves?

Here’s a list of all members of the US Congress that took campaign money from the gun and weapons lobby and then tweeted that their prayers were with the victims and their famililes in Florida. Appauling.