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Vol. 15, No. 4, 2016
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mad(e) in the usa

reviewed by



Nick 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, New York Nights: Performing, Producing and Writing in Gotham and A New Yorker at Sea. His latest book, Tales of a Hamptons Sailor, is now available. For Nick's reviews, visit his website:

Now 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.

Although 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.

Perhaps 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.

Congressional 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?

The 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.

But ignoring the concealed weapons threat to society is only one example of the Congressional irresponsibility.

Despite 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.

In 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.

In 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.

Fatuous 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 his mother.

As 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.



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