Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Orville Taylor | Get American guns out of wrong hands

Published:Sunday | June 18, 2017 | 6:00 AM

A man walked into a public place and, despite the security detail in place, no one could prevent Congressman Steve Scalise from being shot by wacko, James Hodgkinson, a man whose age of 66 might just need another six to show that we are facing a beast of biblical proportions.

This resident of Belleville, Illinois, took his legal firearm and herded patriotic American citizens who came to watch the most American of pastimes, a charity baseball game where both Republicans and Democrats were supposed to play a friendly matchup. Were it not for the bravery and quick thinking of two law-enforcement officers, there would have been a massacre.

When the gunsmoke had cleared, Scalise was shot and, at press time, was still in critical condition. Scalise is a very senior man in the American government. He is the third-ranked Republican in the House of Representatives and is referred to as the majority whip because of the considerable influence he wields.

At this time, I pause to pray for his life and his family and the American people on the whole. Five other persons were shot, and inasmuch as their lives are equally important, their death would have been simply murder. On the other hand, the attack on the elected official is an act of terrorism and is an attempted assassination.

And that is the point that I have been trying to make since the rock of ages was just a pebble. America needs to wake up from its self-delusion and face the reality of both its history and its sociology. It is a great nation, and if it goes down, it is going to take little Jamaica with it. The world needs a strong but sensible America.

 

Bloody battles

 

For all the official doctrine of equality and freedoms enshrined in its constitution, it is a nation that has a deep history of violence and intolerance. It fought and decimated the Native Americans for their land. It wrought its independence in bloody battles with the British and killed the better part of a million of its own citizens to keep one-fourteenth of its population in slavery. Even excluding the fabled narratives of the Wild West, there are copious amounts of violence to add peppery flavour to their annals.

This is not the 19th century when cowboys, a third of whom were black, including Nat Love, alias Deadwood Dick, had to carry guns for protection from 'owlhoots'. Nor is it the 20th century when policemen could wantonly beat black men for sitting on the wrong side of the bus or when they could be lynched by supporters of the Democratic Party, under the cover of the Ku Klux Klan.

I don't know what making America great again means or the good old days, but if great America was when I was a child, it is a chapter that we need not ever go back to. There is a strong correlation between inequality and discrimination on the one hand and violence on the other hand.

America is in a crisis and it is pretending that it isn't. There is a war against Americans and, in particular, the government. Importantly, the terrorists are both local and foreign. What makes America great is the nominal commitment to equality, justice, freedom of speech and other basic constitutional and human rights. However, despite the constitutional commitment to equality, many non-Americans, including Muslims, consider its foreign policies anti-Islamic and unjust.

But that is not even the meat of the matter. I have long argued that it is impossible to fight al-Qaeda and ISIS by using firearms. The battle has to be won in the minds of the would-be terrorists, where they believe that the powerful America is just and has an interest in treating people equally and with respect.

 

Worst era

 

This is absolutely the worst era in our modern history for us to preach discrimination, bigotry and intolerance, because we have also very stupidly pushed America's Second Amendment to the Constitution to the most ridiculous extent. America is one of the easiest places for an ordinary person to obtain a firearm, including high-power assault weapons. It is also not too difficult a place to get weapons from, which can, ultimately, end up in the hands of the very persons who are hell-bent on destroying the country.

Just too many Americans have guns. On the average, there are 88 guns to every 100 Americans. In another article, I will explain how ridiculously easy it is and how the background checks and laws are as holey as my primary-school underpants.

With the exception of the 9/11 attacks, most acts of terror on American soil in recent times have been by Americans - and white, too. This includes the infamous Columbine, Virginia Tech, Charleston Church massacres and way more than 160 others since 2001. Generally, almost 290,000 Americans were killed by guns since 2006.

So soon Americans forget that just six years ago, Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head in an incident not dissimilar to the one in which Scalise was fired upon. And in its great past, it has assassinated, or attempted to assassinate, more of its public officials per capita than any other democratic country.

Apart from Abe Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy, all of whom died, there have been more than 22 attempts on the lives of presidents, including Ronald Reagan, and at least another 40 more on other public officials.

It has been reported that at least eight attempts were made against Barack Obama. The sad truth is that American extremists and crazies have never hesitated to try to kill their elected officials. Here on this former plantation that has not happened since enslaved Africans, including Chief Tacky, did so myriad times.

In this period when intolerance seems on the rise again and disrespect and partisan behaviour, with a distinct Third World flavour, is spreading across America, it is even more important to get the guns out of the hands of those who would not qualify to even hold their tiny water pistols in their hand.

- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.