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Don Quixote Challenges the Gun Industry

When the chaos subsided after the Columbine school tragedy in 1999 and investigators were given opportunity to review law enforcement’s conduct in a calm and clear-headed manner, it was determined that police tactics had been inappropriate. Had police rushed in more quickly towards the sound of gunfire, it’s likely that some of the 12 students (and one teacher) killed that […]

The post Don Quixote Challenges the Gun Industry first appeared on Dissident Voice.

When the chaos subsided after the Columbine school tragedy in 1999 and investigators were given opportunity to review law enforcement’s conduct in a calm and clear-headed manner, it was determined that police tactics had been inappropriate. Had police rushed in more quickly towards the sound of gunfire, it’s likely that some of the 12 students (and one teacher) killed that day would have been rescued.

In the solemn aftermath of the Parkland school massacre in 2018, charges were brought against school resource officer Scot Peterson, alleging that he had failed to confront the gunman. Had he been more directly confrontational, investigators concluded that some of the 17 lives lost on the day of the shooting could have been saved. Peterson was publicly shamed by onlooking officials, including then President Donald Trump who labeled him a coward. He was tried for negligence and perjury, but was found innocent of the charges brought against him.

It’s now clear that in 2021, had the parents of a deranged teen been more responsible, and had Oxford High School officials been more observant, the murder of four students and the injuries to six others would likely have been averted.

In 2022, 19 young students and 2 teachers were killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas by an 18-year-old gunman. After the massacre, it appeared obvious to investigators that proper protocol had not been followed. Had responders reacted with what was thought to be a previously established strategy, surely some lives would have been saved. Much of the blame for system breakdown fell upon Pete Arredondo, the school district police chief. Similar to the blame levied on Scot Peterson at Parkland, Arredondo received the brunt of public condemnation for what appeared to be his hesitant and indecisive action.

The violent shootings in our schools unfold in chaotic minutes. In their aftermath, investigators review the disasters in quiet settings void of gunshots, pressured by calendars rather than clocks. The Justice Department spent 11 months putting together a 600-page study showing how the tragedy at Robb Elementary School could better have been handled. With ample time, at comfortable desks, examiners were able to peruse every facet of the 90-minute ordeal from every possible angle. Like the conclusion made earlier by Columbine examiners, the Justice Department determined that a quicker, more forceful, and confrontational approach would most likely have saved some lives at Uvalde.

There were 886 school shootings (383 deaths, 805 injuries) between the years 2000 and 2021, and of course more shootings and casualties have occurred since then. Had each emergency been handled perfectly, some of those casualties would have been avoided. But in the heat of the moment, how often is chaos handled perfectly? And what if it is? How many fewer children will then die? A perfect response doesn’t ensure a no-casualty result, it simply means that perhaps fewer children will be killed or maimed compared to a less-than-perfect response.

It’s almost as if we are tilting at windmills when assigning blame for the tragedies that befall our schools. We spend days or even months examining police and faculty response during a school shooting to determine who screwed up the most. The blame is then piled on to responders like Peterson and Arredondo for their less-than-perfect reaction to chaos. Yes, if responders react perfectly, some lives might be saved, but the imperfect responders we tilt at are windmills and not the real foe. Attacking windmills provides the appearance of doing something rather than nothing, but if we truly wish to save children rather than merely projecting blame, the real foe needs to be confronted.

There are several recognized categories of murder and manslaughter: first degree murder, second degree murder, felony murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and so on. The various categories address intent and culpability. A shooter who enters a school and kills children and teachers with a gun will be charged (if still alive) with some form of murder. Likewise, someone who aids or abets a shooter will likely face charges.

The parents of Ethan Crumbley, the shooter at Oxford High School, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter because they irresponsibly provided his weapon and failed to recognize or react to their son’s warning signs. Some Oxford parents are also urging that criminal charges be brought against school officials for gross negligence. Obviously, the Crumbly parents should have possessed better judgment and acted more responsibly; obviously, Oxford school officials should have been more observant, but are they the real foe? Isn’t the real foe those who have made Oxford, Uvalde, Parkland, and all of our school massacres so statistically foreseeable, but nearly impossible to prevent? Isn’t the real foe those who knowingly perpetuate the conditions that ensure evermore school massacres in our future?

In the 8 years since Greg Abbott became governor of Texas, the state has suffered 7 mass shootings. Rather than proposing or supporting meaningful firearm restrictions that would make mass shootings less likely, Abbott has done just the opposite. The governor has pleased the NRA and its constituency by signing 22 bills that will reduce or eliminate gun restrictions in Texas. Greg Abbott didn’t sign the bills in a chaotic setting where his better judgment might have been impinged. He calmly signed his name in front of cameras rather than guns, and was fully aware of the ramifications. He knew that while his signatures would ensure NRA based political support, the signings would also make future mass shootings more likely. Perhaps in his mind he is able to portray himself as guilt-free; it’s only the crazed shooters who are responsible for killing school kids – how could anyone hold him responsible? He won’t be the one holding the gun that spews bullets; he’s only just making it available. Abbott does not yet know the names of all the children that will be shot due to his signing, but he will learn them by and by. When he does, the Governor will publicly grieve over the unfathomable tragedy and pompously pray for both the victims and their families.

Ethan Crumbley’s parents face involuntary manslaughter charges because they should have foreseen what would happen and did nothing to stop it. Governor Abbott can foresee what will happen due to his actions, but will face no charges. The mayhem that again unfolds will be down the road and not directly tied to his actions. It will take bad parenting or a lone crazed gunman enabled by the governor’s signature to come along and deliver the massacre. In its aftermath, an investigation will likely take place to determine if better police response would have saved some lives. The governor will probably demand it.

Governor Abbott and Texas are not lone wolves. 27 states have enacted permitless-carry laws that help proliferate the presence of guns in nearly all public places. 16 states have declared themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuary States” to block or restrain attempts at gun-control measures. Politicians all across the nation are pressured or supported by gun-rights groups such as The National Rifle Association (NRA), Gun Owners of America (GOA), The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA). The persuasive force they wield over politicians comes not through membership dues alone; more than half of the NRA’s revenue comes directly from gun industry companies.

Not so long ago, through seductive advertising, the tobacco industry convinced nearly half of the adult U.S. population that smoking was both glamorous and healthy. Today, the gun industry promotes its product in much the same way: gun ownership is boldly attractive and a life-sustaining necessity (there’s a difference though; cigarettes are most apt to kill the user; guns are most apt to kill someone else). As Americans buy into the gun hype, their voting power adds to the industry’s persuasive power with law-makers and makes meaningful gun regulation less and less likely.

With every school massacre, the anguish and heartache are real to the parents and those most close to the victims, but for the rest of us … maybe not so much. The grieving masks are good for public show and self-exoneration, but hide our true priorities: the gun industry values money more than the lives of children; lawmakers value votes more than the lives of children; gun owners value the warm feeling of holding a deadly firearm more than the lives of children. Were it otherwise, they (and we) would do what needs to be done to curtail the endless carnage.

After a shooting, it’s convenient to challenge the windmills. We look for a Peterson, an Arredondo, or even a Crumbley on which to affix some blame. If only our police and law-enforcement officials had reacted to chaos like the heroes in a movie, a few more of our children would have been saved. If only the parenting had been perfect and school officials more observant, a shooting might have been averted (or maybe just delayed). If police, parents, and school officials always reacted perfectly when facing danger and uncertainty, it would be a good thing; some lives would be saved amidst the chaos. But the responders are never always perfect, they can’t save all the lives, and they are not the source of the killings.

It’s the guns; the proliferation of guns; the proliferation of guns designed to kill human beings. It’s the ease of obtaining and carrying a gun (even a gun specifically designed to kill a lot of humans in a short amount of time) that turns our schools and neighborhoods into killing fields. The gun industry promotes their deadly merchandise as if it were an attractive, patriotic, and life-enhancing necessity. Too many American citizens have found purpose in the hype. Too many American lawmakers have found careers through the hype. Years ago, when citizens and politicians challenged the tobacco industry, meaningful rules and regulations were incorporated that have actually prolonged the lives of millions of Americans. If we truly wish to minimize the senseless shooting deaths and injuries that now plague our nation, we need to convince our lawmakers that gun proliferation is a priority issue; they need to find that our continued support (vote) is tied to meaningful gun regulation. The power of an electoral vote is the only thing potentially more powerful than an industry’s financial and lobbying power. If it’s not wielded effectively, the gun industry and our politicians will continue to comfortably enable school and neighborhood massacres for nothing more than money and political security. If we surrender our votes to those beholding to the gun industry, we are just as guilty as Greg Abbott; if we cast our votes in support of the gun industry, we are just as responsible as the parents of Ethan Crumbley. Rather than seeing meaningful legislation from our lawmakers that could prevent a tragedy, we will continue doing studies after each rampage to determine if a more perfect law-enforcement response could have saved just a few more lives. The studies will serve their purpose. We’ll find someone else to blame for something, and nothing much will change.

The post Don Quixote Challenges the Gun Industry first appeared on Dissident Voice.

This content originally appeared on Dissident Voice and was authored by Vern Loomis.

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