“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
— THOMAS PAINE
May 2023

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Once Upon A Time In America

I wrote my first Common Sense piece 20 months ago and quoted the movie, Risky Business, in which Miles said to Tom Cruise (Joel), “Sometimes you gotta say What the F***!” Some important things have improved since then, but others have worsened.

What journalists call the culture war between left and right has turned into a shooting war. Congressman Keith Self, who represents the district that includes Allen, Texas recently said that people dissatisfied with prayer as a solution to gun violence “don’t believe in an almighty God who is absolutely in control of our lives.” Does this mean that Wayne LaPierre, head of the NRA, is now God? When the English poet William Cowper in 1773 wrote the Christian hymn “God moves in a mysterious way/his wonders to perform”, did he refer to assault rifles, endless hand guns, and the murder of school children? Or to the US Supreme Court trashing its legitimacy by pursuing flawed and irrelevant 18th century history in deciding cases about abortion or guns?

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit research group chronicling gun incidents, in the first 128 days of 2023, that’s through May 9, 15,000 people have died in our country from guns, and 12,000 have been injured. There have been 208 mass shootings, defined as those where 4 or more people were killed. Children under 12 have seen 218 injuries and 95 deaths, while teenagers have been victim to 535 deaths and 1,300 injuries. In this same period gun violence has injured 142 police officers and killed 28.  Gun violence is now the leading cause of death among children, and it’s no wonder other countries have begun to issue travel advisories for trips to the US. One of Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, which he identified as bedrock principles of our country, included freedom from fear. We’re losing that. Does it make common sense?

After the Nashville massacre of 6 people at the Covenant School, Congressman Tim Burchett blandly opined, we’re “not gonna fix it.” The public policy question is whether we cannot or will not fix it. The elected officials who blame mental health and then cut funds for mental health treatment are just ducking the issue. Mental health is a form of illness that affects mankind everywhere, but the US leads the world, second only to Brazil, in gun deaths. Per capita we rank 22nd. We are also number 2 in the world in firearm-related suicides. While it’s true that some people kill themselves and other people, and probably always will, they need not have guns.

Gun legislation has not conquered the problem though it has helped in most places. Universal background checks make sense, but we need more. We need disarmament. Assault rifles and handguns have one clear purpose: to kill people. They should be outlawed, rounded up, and destroyed. Only law enforcement officers need to carry a gun.

The Supreme Court has made this more difficult. Justice Thomas, always a voice against government interference with individual freedom except the freedom of women and their doctors to continue or terminate a pregnancy, seems corruptly beholden to a rich guy who collects Nazi paraphernalia. Justice Alito is on a mission and is by far the most aggressive civil rights wrecking ball on the Court. His opinion overruling Roe v. Wade shows the urgency of a motorist in bumper-to-bumper traffic who desperately needs a toilet. There is no known explanation for him. Justice Gorsuch tried unsuccessfully, for two years, to sell his house, then immediately after his confirmation was able to sell it to the head of a law firm with many cases before the Court. The Court is useless and will be for a long time.

We’re left with only one course, which is political action. Elections are coming, and voters at all levels of government should condition their vote on a litmus test, which the working press can help to implement:

  1. Do you favor the abolition of assault rifles, high capacity magazines, and hand guns?
  2. Do you believe that only women and their doctors should decide whether or not to terminate a pregnancy?

Even if elections favor candidates who say yes to these questions, there will be outliers. And the Supreme Court will still decide cases. But the justices read election returns and we must start somewhere.

It’s time to say What The F***.

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