Gun violence is a proxy war on the American public

A day after a mass shooting at The Covenant School, a woman is overcome with emotion in front of an impromptu memorial. (Photo: John Partipilo, for the Tennesse Lookout)

As the riot of gun violence in America produces fresh massacres by the day, firearm fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge the blood on their hands, and their suicidal stance in the face of escalating carnage is that more guns are the answer.

But it’s worse than that.

Take a close look at the arguments that gun extremists advance and a dark truth emerges. They repeatedly put defense against tyranny at the center of their claim to unfettered access to firearms. In the almost 232 years since the ratification of the Second Amendment, individual gun owners have had no substantial or sustained occasion to take up arms against the federal government. Yet guns are involved in almost 49,000 annual deaths in the United States. Anyone who has studied the matter arrives at the simple conclusion that more guns mean more death, and the gun-permissive U.S. is an extreme outlier in the developed world.

The nature of gun violence in America therefore amounts to a proxy war, with school children targeted as unwitting infantry and grocery store shoppers conscripted as cannon fodder. Attackers armed as if for military engagement, backed by Second Amendment fanatics, are deployed in public to kill unsuspecting innocents.

This is a hot war. We know which side is the aggressor. Gun extremists aren’t just political misfits. They are belligerents.

It is true that the framers crafted the Second Amendment as a defense against a form of 18th-century tyranny. Some representatives from the various states were wary of a strong federal government that could establish a standing army and dissolve state militias, and the right to “keep and bear arms” is explicitly tied to militia service in the text of the one-sentence, 27-word amendment.

What’s not explicit in the amendment is an individual right concerning firearms. In the records of the First Federal Congress, which produced the amendment, “There was no discussion at all about private ownership of guns,” notes Ray Raphael in his annotated U.S. Constitution.

Second Amendment scholar Michael Waldman makes a similar point. “There is not a single word about an individual’s right to a gun for self-defense or recreation in (James) Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention. Nor was it mentioned, with a few scattered exceptions, in the records of the ratification debates in the states. Nor did the U.S. House of Representatives discuss the topic as it marked up the Bill of Rights,” Waldman wrote in Politico Magazine.

Courts treated relevant cases accordingly, and state and local governments adopted gun restrictions more or less uncontroversially for more than two centuries.

That all changed with the rise of the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment fanaticism in recent decades. It wasn’t until the 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller that the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time said the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun. Read more

Stop tolerating gun extremists. Shame them.

“How Many More?” is painted on the rock on Michigan State University’s campus after a mass shooting on Feb. 13, 2023 | Photo: Susan J. Demas for the Michigan Advance

America is a country-size arsenal.

There are 20% more guns in the U.S. than people. Americans are estimated to own 393 million of the 857 million guns in the world, or almost half — 46% — of all civilian guns.

And the obscene ubiquity of firearms in the U.S. explains much about why the country is a killing field without parallel in the developed world. Anyone who has studied the matter arrives at a simple conclusion: More guns means more death.

“Most countries do not have a problem with fatal mass shootings,” Daniel Webster, the co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, told a Fox affiliate last year after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. “It’s because we have decided to make guns readily available to almost anyone and our interests seem to be more protecting those who sell weapons and want to own them as opposed to the broader public.”

This choice has disfigured American society.

Reform is thwarted by cowardice, corruption and craziness. As young children are slaughtered in their classrooms, conservative officials desecrate their memory by suggesting their deaths are the price of freedom. As mass shootings become a daily occurance, gun-rights zealots double down on the bloodthirsty fantasy that more guns is the answer.

Exasperation with record levels of gun violence has reinvigorated some efforts to enact regulation at the federal and state levels. Legislative remedies are an encouraging development, and several bills promise to make a meaningful difference.

But in a country so awash in deadly weapons and so steeped in the mythology of firearms, regulatory tweaks can protect Americans only so much. True reform will be achieved only through a transformation of culture. This is a generation-scale project, but at a time when guns are involved in almost 49,000 annual deaths and are now the leading cause of death among America’s youth, few national initiatives could be more worth undertaking.

The project must start with a shift away from tolerance of gun extremists. Read more

Democracy haters aren’t going away. They’re digging in.

The author says that it is foolhardy to underestimate former U.S. President Donald Trump — shown here gesturing during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home on November 15, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The midterm elections this month brought widespread failure to election deniers on the ballot. The most toxic of these dishonest Republicans all went down in stinging losses. Losers included:

Governor candidate Kari Lake and secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem in Arizona.

Secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant in Nevada.

Governor candidate Tudor Dixon and secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo in Michigan.

Governor candidate Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania.

Governor candidate Tim Michels in Wisconsin.

Governor candidate Heidi Ganahl in Colorado.

The list is long.

The disaster Republicans endured led many observers to conclude that election denialism cost them far more than was anticipated and that voters had demanded a return to somenormaldemocratic expectations.

While this might be mostly true, there remain significant pockets of democracy haters throughout the country who, far from being chastened by the humiliating midterm results, are hardened in their antipathy to constitutional order.

Many of them have rallied around Lake. She lost a close race to Democrat Katie Hobbs, but not only had she not conceded as of this writing but she suggested the race was compromised by fraud. High-profile election deniers across the country, including Steve Bannon and Michael Flynn, both of whom served in the administration of the coup-plotting former President Donald Trump, challenged the veracity of the Arizona results.

Podcaster and influential election denier Joe Oltmann added his voice to this post-election “big lie” chorus.

“We join the people of Arizona in calling for new, legitimate midterm elections — not just in Arizona, but across the country,” he wrote on Telegram.

U.S. Election Integrity Plan, a Colorado-based activist group whose leaders have worked with Trump ally and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell to facilitate national election-denial activities, issued a press release to announce that Arizona citizens “demand a new midterm election.” Read more

Their election denier is your election denier

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Some states are comparatively isolated from the most damaging influence of democracy haters.

California, Washington, Maryland, Delaware, Colorado — they are likely to avoid the misfortune of election deniers in high office in the near future, or they operate with voting laws meant to expand, rather than restrict, voter access.

But while such states act as a bulwark for precious democratic traditions, they exist as part of a federal system in which a cancer in some states can infect every state and be fatal to the whole republic.

Election-denying candidates for high office are not only on the ballot in many states but are expected to win, thereby conferring state authority on conspiracy theorists and fascists who care nothing about election security and everything about power. Their poisonous presence won’t be confined by state borders.

That’s why constituents in Constitution-respecting states are mistaken if they feel relieved about November ballots that lack the sort of far-right conspiracists up for election in states like Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio.

Their election deniers are your election deniers.

The breadth of election denial among Republican candidates for U.S. House and U.S. Senate seats and top statewide offices is astonishing. The Washington Post counts 291 of them in 48 states — the majority of them are expected to win and many more are strong contenders.

In the most alarming cases, they would have direct control over their state’s elections and could exert undemocratic, conspiratorial or outright deceitful influence over future elections, like the 2024 presidential contest, in which the GOP will almost certainly put up an authoritarian candidate, such as insurrection leader Donald Trump or, perhaps worse, cunning human rights abuser Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida.

Jim Marchant, the Republican candidate for secretary of state in Nevada, who is polling ahead of his Democratic opponent, exemplifies why even non-Nevadans should be scandalized by the strength of his campaign. He embraces the lie the 2020 election was stolen by a global cabal, and during a recent rally with Trump, Marchant told the crowd that “when my coalition of Secretary of State candidates around the country get elected we’re going to fix the whole country and President Trump is going to be president again in 2024.” Read more

Fear of reporters is fear of the truth

The author notes that former President Donald Trump has helped spur a trend in which GOP politicians avoid and frequently attack reporters. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In the weeks after he assumed office, former President Donald Trump put reporters in the crosshairs when he labeled them “the enemy of the American people.”

He was following the authoritarian playbook, long consulted by the likes of Stalin and Hitler, but it was shocking to see such strongman rhetoric coming from an American leader, who swore an oath to a constitution that takes press freedoms pretty seriously.

The open animus toward journalists that Trump exemplified is increasingly a standard trait of leaders at all levels of American government, particularly, but not only, among Republicans. Hostility to the press coincides with the growing reliance by politicians on digital platforms such as social media to bypass journalists and communicate directly with constituents.

Their access to free and easy forms of mass communication allows them to indulge their animosity for reporters who might challenge them on misjudgments, misinformation and misdeeds, with the result being an electorate that is misled, misinformed and mistreated.

What was true in 1789 is true in 2022: A strong press is essential to a strong America.

Despite the First Amendment and the country’s venerable journalistic traditions, the U.S. has descended to a mediocre place among nations of the world in terms of press freedoms. The 2022 World Press Freedom Index, which measures the ability of journalists to disseminate news independently and without political or other interference, ranks the U.S. at 42, just behind Burkina Faso, which as of several days ago is ruled by a 34-year-old army captain who led a coup.

Republicans have taken press blocking to new levels in the run-up to the November elections. Read more