Sunday, August 31, 2014

On Gun Violence and American Exceptionalism: Leonard Pitts nails it … by gimleteye

For The Miami Herald, Leonard Pitts Jr. writes a great OPED about the tragic case of a shooting instructor killed by a 9 year old girl who lost control of her Uzi. I can hear the pro-gun, anti-control activists howling that the instructor was responsible because he didn't have the girl under control. Pitts asks the question, though: in what kind of America does a 9 year old even get the chance to operate a machine gun and then answers this and other questions that gun nuts will shrug off.

Here's the Pitts OPED:

Sometimes you read a sentence and you think to yourself: only here, only us. Here’s one such sentence.

“A 9-year-old girl from New Jersey accidentally shot and killed her instructor with an Uzi submachine gun while he stood to her left side, trying to guide her.”

That’s from a New York Times account of the death of 39-year-old Charles Vacca, who worked for the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona. He died Monday when his preteen student lost control of the Uzi. Apparently, the gun was in “repeat fire” mode, the recoil lifted the muzzle, the little girl couldn’t master it and Vacca was struck in the head.

The child and her family, who have not been identified, were vacationing last week in nearby Las Vegas and had signed up for a package deal offered by the gun range. It included a tour of Hoover Dam, a hamburger lunch, an optional helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon and the chance to fire a range of powerful weapons, including sniper rifles, grenade launchers and machine guns. Everything was going fine until, as the Times put it, the “adventure went horribly wrong.”

For the record, some of us would argue that “horribly wrong” began, not when the child lost control of the gun, but when “adults” first placed this powerful piece of military hardware into her small hands. That act raises questions that are as blunt and indecorous as they are necessary and unavoidable:

What kind of shooting range allows a prepubescent girl to fire an Uzi? What kind of instructor does not guard against recoil when a child is handling such a powerful weapon? What kind of parents think it’s a good idea to put a submachine gun in their 9-year-old’s hands? And what kind of idiot country does not prohibit such things by law?

It is the last question that should most concern us. There’s not much you can do about individual lack of judgment. Some people will always be idiots. Some companies will always be idiots. But a country and its laws should be an expression of a people’s collective wisdom. So for a country to be idiotic says something sweeping about national character.

And where gun laws are concerned, the United States of America is — individual dissenting voices duly noted and exempted from the following descriptive — dumber than a bag of bullets. This, after all, is the country where you can take a gun into a bar. Where you can erect a shooting range in your own backyard. Where a blind person can get a gun permit. You think it’s insane that Arizona allows a 9-year-old to shoot at a firing range? ABC News reports that one in Texas allows them to do so at age 6.


God bless America. We legislate against Sharia law in places where there are no Muslims, much less an inclination toward Sharia. We pass laws to curtail election fraud despite the fact that election fraud, as a practical matter, does not exist. Yet we endure a yearly toll of gun carnage that makes civilized people in civilized places shake their heads in wonder and our only action is inaction.

We should mourn for this little girl who will have to live the rest of her life with the memory of what she inadvertently did. But let us also mourn for a country where what she did now barely qualifies as news.

We speak often and with pride of America’s exceptionalism — by which we mean our rights, our freedoms, our values. And they are, make no mistake, among the finest in the world.

But there are days when the bullets fly and the blood flows and no one can give you a good reason why this had to happen, and it occurs to you that we are also exceptional in the sheer, stubborn stupidity of which we are all too often capable. Last week brought another such day. A man was killed by a 9-year-old wielding a submachine gun.

Only here, only us.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great article Leonard. Not only the shooting instructor lost his life, think about the 9 year old girl living this tragic event over and over again in her head the rest of her life. Horrors!

Anonymous said...

You are right. The parents will be haunted the rest of their lives too. It is an American family tragedy and sadly one that gets repeated again and again because of the absolutists.

Anonymous said...

The underlying concept is that we as a people, will be so well armed, with so much fire power, that any foreign invader will know that every door that they knock on, will result in a firefight. However, the foreign intruders don't show up. So, in our paranoid boredom, mixed with testosterone, we aim and shoot at each other.

Overly simplistic yes. But, it's the basis of our fear-based, suburbanized, guard-gated communities. Add to the mix, the high percentage of our population that is overweight, yet with poor nutrition, along with being overprescribed and so basic rational thinking is compromised.

Anonymous said...

Chile must have an NRA too.

Anonymous said...

Pitts was one hundred percent on the money. Now look at the comments on his op ed trashing him for telling the truth.

Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago, I had a young man cut me off in a parking lot while he was driving erratically through the lot. I was with my family. I parked adjacent to this young man who was with his girlfriend. As we exited to go into a nearby restaurant, I said to the kid, "hey man, you almost hit my car, try to be more attentive when you are racing around the parking lot." I got some lip and said, "I'm with my family, my wife and son, I'm on picking a fight here, just trying to help you out so you don't get in a wreck or hit a kid in a parking lot."

In hindsight, this kid could have capped me and then said I confronted him and was threatening, even though I wasn't. Gun laws in FL are a joke.

I've never been a gun-toter. While I enjoy target shooting from time to time I have never considered a gun to be a proper means of self defense. As much as I despise the prevailing attitude that an armed society is safer, I sometimes consider arming myself with a personal carry pistol just in case. If the other guy has one, I should too!

That's just the kind of attitude the NRA wants.

Anonymous said...

LAST ANON whether armed or not never needlessly confront an idiot. especially one like the one you described. They're IDIOTS by nature and if he is armed he may shoot you and if you are armed you may be pushed to the point of shooting him.

I have carried a handgun my entire adult life. I avoid confrontation like the plague. The only reason I have it if at any particular moment I find myself in fear for my safety or life then I remember I have options. Reality is there's millions of guns out there many in the hands of criminals and sociopaths.

On two occasions (in 25 Years) I have avoided being robbed or worse thanks to my "little friend" BUT I will NEVER fight over a parking space argue over a traffic issue etc etc. Because those can needlessly escalate as your loose lipped "amigo" demonstrated in your encounter.

A gun in the hands of a citizen should be used only as last resort and then only to try to exit the situation with your life.

As per 9 year olds shooting fully automatic combat weapons I think it is beyond dumb. But I also think that Leonard Pitts Jr. using this rare and tragic incident argues another extreme and senseless position.

Anonymous said...

I've become accustomed to living (cautiously) in an over-armed society. However, can someone explain what's gone wrong in Chile?

Anonymous said...

The "new normal" keeps changing faster and faster. Undiagnosed mental illness is running rampant. People are high on various drugs. What seems acceptable has no basis in logic. People barely pay attention to anything. The whole universe centers around them. The laws are scary. Fewer and fewer people are doing any thinking. I am very cautious when I walk out my door, and am observant of anyone in the environment. I hardly ever give strangers advice on anything, and I avoid known stressful situations.

Anonymous said...

I hope people realize that two thirds of gun deaths are suicides, and the great majority of the remaining deaths are due to gang activity. If guns were the cause of the death rate, and not gangs/people/demographics, then Switzerland should have a much higher death rate. Many households in Switzerland have fully automatic rifles (REAL assault rifles). These rifles are kept in the home as part of national defense service, but many of these rifles stay in the home after their defense service has ended (I have been there, and I have seen these machine guns in the homes.) Switzerland had a more homogeneous population, and doesn't have the gang problem that we have.

Anonymous said...

Now show us the violent crime rates for each of the countries that you listed.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Blogger and Mr. Pitts....
Not all "industrialized" contries are in that graph,why?
No election fraud????? I have obvouisly been asleep the last 50 years.
Idiotic country........yea it takes one to know one.
BTW the first admentment goes BOTH ways.
So go ahead,BAN me. Its not going to stop me from commenting elsewhere. (if I posted my picture,it might! Im uglier than a troll!!)

Roger V. Tranfaglia

cheap crap from china said...

I have worked as a probation/parole officer for 35+ years and have never carried a gun. I have been in some of the worst, most crime ridden areas of Miami armed only with my deadly wit and arresting charm ( ;
But seriously, your best defense in this world is a cool head and common sense. The NRA and gun nuts have spread so much paranoia that people pull out their guns first and think later. Stupidity wrapped in the second amendment, that's the American way.