Catalano is a TV writer/producer and Professor of Literature
and Music at Pace University. He reviews books and music for
several journals and is the author of Clifford
Brown: The Life and Art of the Legendary Jazz Trumpeter,
Nights: Performing, Producing and Writing in Gotham
New Yorker at Sea. His latest book, Tales
of a Hamptons Sailor, is now available. For Nick's
reviews, visit his website: www.nickcatalano.net
that we are in the August dog days of the most horrific summer
of shootings in memory it is time to pinpoint responsibility.
Thus, despite a cascade of deaths from gun-toting lunatics,
the U.S. Congress refuses to consider even the slightest slap
in the face anti-gun legislation to halt the continuing slaughter.
This inaction is absurd but it isn't the first time Congress
has demonstrated irresponsibility.
Amid the political chicanery in 1798, the 5th Congress passed
the Alien and Sedition Act which actually forbade citizens from
speaking out against the government, thus almost obliterating
the freedom of speech principle for which the revolutionary
war was fought only a few years earlier. The 21st Congress passed
the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which dictated the removal of
Indians from their lands and state seizure of all of their property.
The 31st Congress in 1850 passed the Fugitive Slave Act which
actually eliminated jury trials for slaves, decreed that bounties
were to be paid for capturing escaped slaves, and affirmed that
slaves were property and not people. And in1964 the 88th Congress,
despite ignoring the illegal surveillance of North Vietnam by
the USS Maddox, passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution abrogating
its own responsibility and giving the President unilateral power
to declare war; another Congressional debacle resulting in tens
of thousands of deaths in a futile war.
these blips stand amid over 200 years of positive history for
the Congress, the present period of deliberate inaction on guns
in the face of a solid majority of citizens in favour of anti-gun
legislation will surely result in another memorable instance
of infamy for the legislators.
the most frustrating element of Congressional inaction on gun
control is the inexplicable irrationality flaunted in the face
of increasingly persuasive evidence. The power of partisan politics
has subsumed the minds of pro-gun legislators who turn a deaf
ear to the incontrovertible facts.
As the rhetoric rages everyone has heard the plethora of arguments
against the guns. In the past decade more American civilians
have died by gunfire than all the Americans who were killed
in combat in the Second World War. In other advanced countries
(Poland and England are typical) one person per million dies
in gun homicides each year vs. America where 31 people per million
die. In Japan gun homicides are as rare as an American's chance
of being killed by a lightening strike.
irrationality about gun violence is a fairly recent occurrence.
In 1967 Governor Ronald Reagan (who later as President would
become the leader of a sharp conservative turn by Republicans)
said that he saw "no reason why on the street today a citizen
should be carrying loaded weapons." Intelligent and even
visionary legislation against guns soon became the order of
the day. In 1993 the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act signaled
the national mood and swift Congressional action reflected this.
In 1994 the mood of a concerned congress intensified as President
Clinton signed a Federal ban on assault weapons that outlawed
19 types of such weapons like AK-47s, Uzis, and TEC- 9s. Everyone,
it seemed, was on the same page vis-à-vis gun control.
The only caveat was that the assault weapons ban would expire
in 10 years unless Congress acted to continue its edict. It
did not. Why?
answer is complex. Initially, numbers of tea party pro-gun legislators
began to increase in certain areas of the country. Soon Congressional
opposition to carrying concealed weapons began to mount. In
Florida, a refashioned and vocal National Rifle Association
succeeded in persuading lawmakers in 1987 to relax the rules
about carrying concealed weapons. Numbers of red states with
young tea party conservatives elected by newly gerrymandered
tactics began to follow the easement on concealed weapons. After
the Florida enactment, as many as 24 other states followed this
practice. The N.R.A,. newly emboldened by republican majorities
in the Congress staging a rising tide of anti-Obama ferocity,
set about the right to carry guns into places that it had been
off limits i.e. cafes, colleges and even churches. And this
fall Texas will be the 8th state to allow students at public
universities to carry concealed guns to class. Hard to believe.
ignoring the concealed weapons threat to society is only one
example of the Congressional irresponsibility.
increasing intensity of gun violence the pro-gunners dug in
deeper. Because of growing N.R.A. pressure, gun industry lobbying,
and the incredulous bluster of newly elected congressmen from
the far right, gun-control voices were being drowned out everywhere.
The anti-gun legislators were forced constantly to retreat on
their demands for meaningful laws and their legislative proposals
were always compromised. They became so watered down that the
anti-gun citizenry became disgusted. Ignoring these voices,
the Congress instead flexed new muscles of pro-gun power. Astonishingly,
by 2013 their stranglehold became total. In April of that year
the senate rejected a compromise plan to expand background checks
on firearms sales as well as a proposal to ban some semi-automatic
weapons modeled after military assault weapons. This complete
rejection of all reason occurred shortly after the Newtown massacre
of grammar school children.
answer to a populace pleading for the slaughter to stop, the
pro- gunners adopted the following maxim: "the only thing
that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
This notion has been adopted by Donald Trump who, in his dystopian
view of America, states “It’s too bad that some
of the young people killed over the weekend didn’t have
guns attached to their (hip), frankly, where bullets could have
flown in the opposite direction.” The recent killings
of armed policemen in Dallas and Baton Rouge illustrate the
absurdity of this thinking.
Another amazing result of the reverse legislative disposition
is what happened with gun manufacturers. Because of the aforementioned
enlightened legislation of anti-gun forces in the 1990s, by
the year 2000 the stock of Smith & Wesson, one of the most
recognizable names in gun sales, had lost 95 percent of its
value and the company was soon sold for a fraction of its value.
But incredibly, because of the meteoric rise of pro-gunners
in the new century, by 2013 the company reported astounding
record sales of over half a billion dollars with the company's
net income more than quadrupling its prior year's results.
a few short years abetted by a shameful Congress, America had
truly gone gun crazy and much worse gun slaughter was yet to
come: San Bernadino and Orlando.
arguments by pro-gun congressmen tried to justify the staggering
increase of gun ownership in private homes. But accidental death
statistics have soared. An average of over 600 a year is the
latest figure with 62 of these deaths in children under 14.
During one week last April four toddlers shot and killed themselves.
Another youngster, a 2 year old boy, found a gun on the floor
of a car and shot through the back of the driver's seat killing
the 2016 U.S. elections draw nearer everyone’s attention
is focused on the presidential race. But if Congressional inaction
on gun control is to be inverted, the tea party legislators
must be defeated at the polls. The alternative is a continuation
of the massacre of innocent men, women and children everywhere.