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Sat, Jun

The Three Percent Solution

LOS ANGELES

BELL VIEW--Turns out 3% of the American population own 50% of the guns. On average, these “gun enthusiasts” own 17 guns a piece. Talk about your self-defense! We also know that fewer than 2% of Americans killed by guns die in the types of mass shootings like we saw in Florida last week. So, it’s not as if every one of these patriotic defenders of the right to bear arms is a threat to society. I have gun-nut friends, and none of them is likely to walk into a school and start shooting anytime soon.

The problem, however, is that our national gun policy is being driven by these guys. There’s a difference between a hunter, or a family with a gun in a safe for self-defense, and a person with an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons that he likes to shoot as often as possible. The Second Amendment doesn’t say anything about getting your rocks off. 

In the Heller decision, a five-Justice majority of the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment guaranteed a personal right to bear arms for, among other purposes, self-defense. That particular interpretation of the Second Amendment may create all kinds of problems for society, but – no matter how you slice it – it does not support the right to own and shoot any kind of gun you want to because you like guns a lot. Even Scalia admitted that the Second Amendment “is not unlimited,” and was never “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” 

Yet this is precisely the policy we appear to be stuck with in this country. Why?

Well, first, the gun industry lobby (aka the NRA) positively likes mass shootings. They’re good for the bottom line. This was particularly true when we had a Kenyan Muslim socialist intent on taking our guns away in the White House. Now, with a real American back in power, the gun industry is not getting as much buck for the bang. Still, a few dead schoolkids never got in the way of robust gun sales. 

Second, our entire political discourse has devolved into a battle of trolls on “both sides’ of an artificially binary world. Everything is a zero-sum game, a win/lose proposition. And a win is a win is a win – even if the linoleum hallways of your local grammar school have to be smeared with gore to capture the W. Most people don’t own an AR-15 – even among those who qualify as “conservative” in today’s America. But most conservatives I know will fight tooth and nail for the rights of this 3% outlier group to own a private arsenal of military-grade weapons because they know it pisses people like me off. 

As for the money – well – those interests exist in a post-blame universe where absolute evil should just be assumed and the possibility of moral suasion does not exist. The gun industry is chump change compared to Big Oil, Big Pharma, and the Big Banks – all of whom will toss your children into a meat grinder for a 1% uptick in quarterly profits. The question is whether ordinary people can fight back. I can almost understand putting children at risk in order to get filthy rich – but putting your own children at risk so other people can get filthy rich? That’s a straight up mystery to me.    

Maybe, just maybe, young people are starting to wake up. When kids today think about big business, they don’t see gleaming Cadillacs coming off the assembly lines of Detroit, or IBM’s vision of the future. They see Verizon, and Citibank, and Google – companies whose entire business models rely on sticking it to their own customers or farming their private lives for profit. Deprived, since birth, of low-cost, quality education, decent healthcare, and a shot at what used to qualify as the American Dream, these kids are calling bs on the bs people my age have been spoon-fed since we were in diapers. 

Keep it up kids, and maybe the grownups will follow along. Maybe someday an overwhelming majority of us will agree that you don’t need to fear being gunned down at your desk so some Ted Nugent wannabe can get his kicks. Until then, vote. Like I said before: If you don’t want to get shot, vote.  

 

(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.)

-cw

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