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Apparently, if the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary had an M-4 assault rifle the massacre in her school would have been prevented. Over the weekend, an Indiana man was caught with 47 guns in his home and was in the midst of preparing for his own murder rampage at a nearby school. An Oklahoma high school student was planning his own murder rampage and was apprehended on the same day as the Newtown massacre.

The gun is a fetish object. It is also a tool that can be used for good or evil. It has freed countries. The gun has killed dictators. The gun has allowed small numbers of people to control many more than their number on the plantation, in the coal mine, in the sweatshop, or the forced labor camp. The gun allowed one man to kill 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gun, in the hands of a teacher or a child in that same circumstance, would have offered no guarantee of their survival.

In his dreams of Call of Duty and other cartoonish video game violence, Texas Representative Louie Gohmert imposes his post hoc counter-factual onto the shooting massacre in Sandy Hook. To him, if more folks had the capacity to effortlessly shoot and kill like a character out of either a bad 1980s action movie, or a John Ford western, then Adam Lanza would have been stopped cold in his tracks.

The facts are not kind to Mr. Gohmert. In reality, it is very hard to accurately shoot a weapon under stress. Most soldiers require a great amount of training to overcome the natural instinct against taking another human life. "One shot, one kill" by a high school principal against an armed assailant (who is also determined to kill them as well) is a joke--a fantasy of the Gun Right and its devotees.

For example, the ratio of bullets fired by U.S. troops to one enemy dead in Afghanistan is 250,000 (this includes training, suppression fire, direct fire, etc.). In Vietnam, the number of rounds fired by U.S. soldiers for each enemy "kill" was 50,000. And according to the United States Army's own data--which should be viewed critically as a very self-serving best estimate--a trained soldier will only hit a man sized target 10 percent of the time from 300 meters.

Trained police officers would also have a very difficult time effectively intervening in a mass shooting incident where there are large numbers of innocent people, and in a complex space such as a school, which is what occurred at Columbine or Newtown:

Under the Peoria Police Department's new rapid-response protocol, the first officer on the scene of a Columbine-style shooting waits until three others arrive to form a contact team. Officers in a smaller group or alone would not have 360-degree coverage, Adams says, and Rambo-style freelancing would confuse communications and increase the chances of "blue on blue" casualties: police officers shooting each other. The contact team forms a diamond, with a point, two flanks, and a rear guard handling radio communications. The team enters the building and moves through it as quickly as possible; team members maintain their relative positions so that they can see and hear each other.

In a large building a second team may go in, either to help track down the shooters or to rescue bystanders and the wounded.

Adams says that gunmen are less likely to fire at innocent bystanders if they are shooting at pursuing police officers. "We train them to move to the sound of gunfire," he says. "Shooting scenes are very chaotic and stressful. You experience sensory overload. Every time you hear a gunshot, assume someone has been wounded. Try to take ground, and isolate the shooter. If the shooter decides to commit suicide by police, we'll oblige. The person making the decision on how it will end is the bad guy. We're just reacting." Adams says, however, that "deadly force imperatives" have not changed for the Peoria police. "We teach that you should shoot what you know, not what you think you know. That man with a gun in his hand who steps out of a doorway may be a plainclothes police officer or a school security guard. Or maybe a teacher who brought a gun to school."

...Layman stepped over people who were lying on the floor, playing wounded students. They moaned that they were hurt, clutched at his legs, and begged him to stop and help them. One man, playing a terrified but unhurt student, leaped from a doorway and grabbed him. Layman wrestled the man away and pushed him toward his trailing teammates, who in turn pushed the man behind them and told him to run back down the hallway to the exit. Another man leaped from a doorway, but this one fired at Layman's team. Others, with guns blazing, attacked from behind or sniped at the officers from doorways. When the contact team's blue-paint simunitions struck the attackers squarely on their vests or helmets, the gunmen stepped aside. They were out of the exercise.

For reasons of politics or possession by the gun gods, Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners Association of America seems to be willfully ignorant of the above realities:
"Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun."
The irony is priceless here: as Gawker points out, the guns used to kill 26 innocent people were in fact owned by a teacher.

Here, I described guns as a fetish object of "plastic and metal" which has an otherworldly appeal and power over many of its owners. This allure trumps reason--or alternatively becomes a stand-in for channeling some type of spiritual or existential force.

The comments by Larry Pratt and others in the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary are further proof of my claim. In thinking through the magical power of guns, I am reminded of the following passage from Colin Wilson's book The Occult:

They believe that this ritual establishes some kind of mysterious contact between the hunter and the hunted; now the animal cannot escape. No matter how fast it runs, or where it hides, the hunter moves towards it inexorably, guided by fate. It is the animal's destiny to become his prey.

The 'scientific' attitude to these activities is that they are primitive superstitions, merely a sign of ignorance of cause and effect. If they happen to be successful, this is only because they create a feeling of success in the hunter; it is self-hypnosis. I would argue that this view may completely miss the point. The hunter's mind becomes totally concentrated on his prey by the ritual, activating the same powers that led Rhine's subjects to such high scores when they first tried influencing the fall of dice.

The following is also a powerful insight into the cult of the gun as a "god" object for individuals such as Larry Pratt, and organizations such as the NRA:
The more man expanded his activities, the more gods he needed. When he began to sail the seas, he needed to make sacrifices to the sea god; when he set out on a journey, he needed to feel himself under the protection of the god of travellers, and so on. Every new enterprise needed a new god. Man was out to gain control of his environment. And his chief means of achieving this control was still--magic.
American society is built upon the cult of the gun. And now that Turner's frontier is closed and no longer exists, there remain millions of people who still imagine themselves as cowboy pioneers, yeomen farmers, and "patriots" who are ready to defend the country's "freedom" by playing soldier in the woods on the weekend, or by owning dozens of guns which have no legitimate use other than as implements of killing on the battlefield. They desperately seek control. When they find it wanting, some of them will lash out as we have seen with the angry white men who commit the overwhelming number of mass shootings in the United States.

Our family members, communities, and children are the collateral damage from America's cultural fixation on firearms. One of the questions that should be answered post Sandy Hook (and which will not be) is how much blood are gun rights advocates willing to see spilled in order to protect an abstract "freedom" to "bear arms" that is in conflict with the basic right to be safe and secure in our communities and public spaces?

The gun god has possessed many people. Will common sense prevail, and will it be able to pierce through the magical glamour put on the thought processes and social vision of the Gun Right?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well written. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, SilentBrook, BPARTR

    You highlight exactly why arming more people is a BAD idea!

    One quibble, I do not think that Nancy Lanza was a teacher (or at least not a practicing one).

    20 innocent children were slaughtered. The gun lobby and NRA bear responsibility and it is time to fight back!

    by the dogs sockpuppet on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 10:24:04 AM PST

  •  Hitting a man sized target at 300 meters (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, SilentBrook, BlackSheep1

    is very difficult with an M16. That's a long shot for your average infantry soldier. It's a very easy shot for a sniper with a very different king of rifle. Most infantry battles in the post Korea era have been at much closer range than 300 meters.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 10:27:35 AM PST

    •  you are correct, which is why the m4 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib, Chi

      was issued in large number because of mout. the lack of killing power long range is causing issues in afghanistan as you like know.

      there is a great book called The Gun which is worth reading. It is a social history of the Ak-47 and does an excellent job of tracing the history of the assault rifle from ww2 and the Germans to the present.

      the m-14 was a throwback to the doctrine of mid range accurate fire by infantry--an idealized circumstance that did not fit tactical reality.

      •  Hello chauncey. I (0+ / 0-)

        would not normally make a comment here. However, I always read what you write. Prior to this great tragedy that took place at a school where innocent children were killed, I need to ask you one question. It is due to the  failure of "everyone" to write or to mention what I want to ask you.

        First let me add that guns and killings were not like today as you well know -- until a certain point things turned around. You may have been too young to remember "what I think" turned things around that made "some people" feel it was necessary to arm themselves. I have looked back and have come up with this notion, (not proven) but the more I see that failure of any one to question the need to arm themselves, the more I am convinced my notion could be somewhat right. It is my own conclusion, no conspiracy, so,

        I will never write about this notion. However, seeing how you are one of the people searching for answers to this madness in the gun culture -- I will gladly share this with you...But not here.

        You can contact me...

        I do want to ask you the question, perhaps you already have an idea.

        Old men tell same old stories

        by Ole Texan on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 11:37:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  A gun violence snapshot since Friday (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, SilentBrook, adrianrf

    And this is just a single state:

    Saturday's shootings continued a violent several days in Alabama.

    ...Investigator Dennis Green of the Cleburne County Sheriff's Office told the newspaper that the three gunshot victims in the triple killing were males but authorities did not immediately identify them further. Green also said a child under the age of 2 also was hurt and had been taken to a hospital in Georgia.

    ...Hours earlier on Saturday, Jason Letts, 38, of Jemison opened fire before dawn at a hospital in Birmingham, wounding a police officer and two employees before being shot and killed by another officer, according to authorities.

    ...In the Alabama community of Homewood, police continue to investigate Friday's slayings of a 30-year-old woman and her two sons, ages 4 and 5, at the family's apartment.

    Coupled with the incidents noted in this diary, I have to wonder if the entire country going collectively insane?

    I really need some positive energy right now.  It's been a very depressing couple of days.  Something has to be done, and that "something" needs to be more broad based than just assault rifle and mega-magazine clip bans.  

    "Mitt who? That's an odd name. Like an oven mitt, you mean? Oh, yeah, I've got one of those. Used it at the Atlas Society BBQ last summer when I was flipping ribs."

    by Richard Cranium on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 10:48:58 AM PST

  •  My County has armed officers at the schools. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In 1993, there was a school shooting in my small Kentucky county.  A high school student shot and killed a teacher and a janitor and held a classroom hostage for hours.  The shooter was apprehended, stood trial and is in prison today.  As a result, some eighteen years later, we still have armed law enforcement officers and metal detectors at every school that all students and visitors go through upon entry.  Could a single armed officer have made a difference in Newton?  That we will never know, but the presence of a police officer does give solace to some parents.

    "This isn't for the ones who would gladly swallow everything their leaders would have them know". Mary Chapin Carpenter

    by malenda on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 11:32:04 AM PST

  •  They might as well be chatbots (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SilentBrook, adrianrf

    "This could have been prevented if only had been armed" comes up every single time. Sometimes it makes sense but NOT this time.

  •  Louis Goehmert is a dangerously useful errand (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SilentBrook, adrianrf

    boy for the extreme wing of the GOP and the NRA.  He's always saying crazy crap like that.

    One has to wonder if now, NOW a dialogue will begin about guns, gun control and control mechanisms for the way in which guns are sold in this country.

    Now that all these children are gone, massacred in the most horrific way - ignoring this issue, or the NRA trying to spin this like dervishes to get control of the conversation back - I can only hope that it will make those who continue to willfuly ignore or misdirect this crisis look really, really bad.

    And yes, I believe death my guns to be of crisis proportions in our country.  

    "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy 1980 DNC Keynote Speech

    by Dumas EagerSeton on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 11:49:06 AM PST

    •  there needs to be a class action lawsuit (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumas EagerSeton

      against the gun manufacturers, especially of "civilian" versions of assault rifles, because their weapons are working as designed--they are especially efficient at killing.

      •  Agreed. Assault guns, assault rifles and those (0+ / 0-)

        weapons that have been re-designed from military versions have ZERO place in the hands of civilians.

        I grew up in a household of hunters, know how to shoot, clean those weapons and have a healthy fear of them.  Personally I would not choose to own a firearm - not because of myself - but the WHAT IF of that weapon getting into the wrong hands?

        Guns have only one purpose: to KILL.  Assault weapons?  To kill a LOT of people at once.

        "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy 1980 DNC Keynote Speech

        by Dumas EagerSeton on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 01:16:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  "If it will save just one gun manufacturer's... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SilentBrook, adrianrf

    ...current and future projected revenues and profits, it's worth it."

    Or something.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 11:50:50 AM PST

  •  Burn in hell, Larry Pratt. (0+ / 0-)

    That is all.

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