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Guns, Guns and More Guns

ACCORDING TO LIZ - Headlines across the nation last week reported the CDC findings that there had been a 35% increase in gun homicides between 2019 and 2020. 

Another morning this week I woke up to the revelation that Naomi Judd had indeed died due to ongoing illness but it was mental illness and by her own hand, with a gun. 

Over the weekend ten people were murdered in Buffalo by a teenaged racist, and twenty people injured by shooters in Milwaukee. 

Here in Los Angeles a man was shot outside the Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. He died later in hospital and his killer has so far managed to evade the police. 

Meanwhile tens of thousands of Ukrainians have died and thousands of Russian soldiers have been buried in body dumps to protect their countrymen from the horrors of the war. 

Here at home, weapons lobbyists have used the war to amass billions in arms contracts and ramp up production, doubling their profits out of our tax dollars. 

Thou shalt not kill is the First Commandment. Whether it be by slingshot or drone. 

At what point does the maker of the slingshot or drone become liable for the consequences? 

At what point those who glorify death bear responsibility? 

At what point do the politicians who spur on the fringe elements among their supporters become the instigators of mass murder? 

We cannot look to our Supreme Court for guidance given that six of that august nine are aficionados of the Federalist Society which has argued forcefully against regulations on guns… and receives no small amount of financial support from the gun lobby to do their business. 

In Los Angeles it has been for years a case of not in our back yard… murders did not impact most of us unless we lived in neighborhoods that were overwhelmingly poor and minority. And without a voice at City Hall. 

But with 397 bodies laid out at the morgue in a 12-month period, murders in 2021 were the highest in 15 years. Figures that can no longer be ignored by the media. 

The biggest contributing factor to this spike in murder? More guns. 

More guns were bought in 2020 and 2021 than in previous years. The doubling of ghost guns was a factor in the escalation of violent crime. And more people were willing to carry guns illegally and to use them. 

More guns around, more guns available meant more guns were accessible to the crazies. 

More guns in the hands of crazies put police more at risk and less likely to use deescalating techniques. 

And more guns were on hand when depression and mental illness became just too much to bear. 

The NRA and other weapons lobbyist fight tooth and nail to defang any bill intended to protect Americans. 

Meanwhile weapons lobbyists are openly using Russia’s war to get billions and billions more of our tax dollars to boost their record profits even higher. Congressional hawks have approved $3.65 billion so weapons manufacturers can build their drones and missiles without fear of budgetary constraints — and nearly double their profits in the process. 

Over half a million guns, not to mention hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition cross illegally from the U.S. into Mexico each year, supplying drug cartels with upscale American weapons for their attacks on each other, and on those who try to police them. 

Last August, Mexico sued United States gun manufactures, including Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Colt, Glock and Ruger, for $10 billion for their contribution to the murders of 35,000 of its citizens, at least 17,000 of which were directly attributable to arms trafficking. 

Mexican authorities lay the blame squarely on the lack of adequate regulation of firearms north of the border. Court documents claim that these weapons are often customized in the US to appeal to Mexican criminals with gold plating or engravings of Santa Muerte, the Mexican folk saint of death. 

On Saturday, May 14th, emulating the mosque massacre in New Zealand, a teen-aged gunman livestreamed on Twitch the murder of ten, and the non-fatal shooting of three others, in the parking lot and inside a supermarket in Buffalo, NY. 

He used an assault style rifle. He had two other weapons in his car. He had a history of violent threats and police had taken him to a hospital in June 2021 for a mental health evaluation. 

Two days earlier, a document he purportedly wrote was posted to Google Docs laying out a specific plan to attack Black people. It cited the “great replacement" theory, a false concept popular with the white supremacist movement, that non-whites are calculatingly replacing white Americans through programs of immigration, interracial marriage and violence. 

On Friday, three people were shot and wounded a few blocks from the arena where the Milwaukee Bucks were playing in the NBA playoffs. Two hours later, seventeen people were injured in a shootout involving multiple people in the downtown area. Arrests were made, and ten guns seized. 

The day before the murder downtown, a woman and toddler were shot in the Harvard Pak Neighborhood of South Los Angeles and last Wednesday several other people were injured in a residential area of Canoga Park. 

Yesterday, the Asian man who killed one and injured five more in an Orange County church, was carrying at least two handguns. 

Japan, with some of the strictest gun laws in the world, had 0.02 firearms fatalities per 100,00 people in 2019. The United States had 12.21, over 600 times that rate, and more than half were suicides. 

Not unsurprisingly, state by state gun deaths track increased gun ownership and reduced regulation. 

San Jose’s mayor estimates gun violence costs the city’s residents over $440 million annually. In an attempt to reduce gun violence and suicide, last year his city enacted policies to shift the cost away from the taxpayers and onto gun owners by requiring gun owners to pay an annual fee and carry liability insurance. 

As he put it at a press conference: “While the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, it does not require taxpayers to subsidize gun ownership.” 

He’s right. California mandates car insurance, why not gun insurance? 

And that insurance can incentivize harm-reduction strategies by charging more for no certificated training, no gun safe, unaddressed mental health or anger management issues, and prior gang affiliation.

 

(Liz Amsden is an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)