An assault weapon ban will not stem shootings in the United States. Rules and regulations will do little to treat our national sickness—addiction to violence. The United States with 5% of the world population has a history of violence at home and around the world. Our roots are deep and ugly. People of reason are in a cultural war with supporters of guns and militarism. On the front lines are children being shot and children standing up to challenge the NRA that lives are more valuable than gun ownership.
Historian Howard Zinn noted in his book, A People’s History of the United States, how Columbus reacted in his first face-to-face meeting with natives. Columbus wrote: “They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want”
Social Studies teachers struggle to teach the truth of our violence and are sometimes threatened or reprimanded for using books like A People’s History of the United States. The Conway, Arkansas Board of Education banned Zinn’s book from use in their schools. www.arktimes.com/…/03/free-zinn-book-fior-arkansas-teachers. Zinn does focus on our addiction to violence and that seems to be an unspeakable for Americans in denial.
Some teachers even in the military are not in denial. Major Danny Sjursen taught history at West Point and had his boots on the ground in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In a recent article in the online magazine Truthdig he said: “Guns and a militarized culture are the real weapons of mass destruction in American society.”
No surprise that the most recent school shooting in Broward County, Florida was in a militarized Junior Reserve Officers Corps high school. The shooter was a member of the JROTC and among the 17 he shot dead were three JROTC students
Chicago, a city besieged by shootings, has 9,000 students from ages 12 to 18 in Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. But Americas addiction to militarization is deeper than JROTC. Our students learn in social studies class that we have troops in over 70 nations and 800 bases around the world. Kids must wonder—knowing no foreign troops are in the United States. What do students internalize about our violent 2003 attack on Iraq, a half million Iraqis—mostly civilians dead and over 2 million people displaced? Is a rationale for killing made easier—especially when we refer to our troops as heroes?
David Swanson, author of War is a Lie and founder of World Without War researched mass shootings and learned that military veterans were twice as likely to be mass shooters than the general public.
The New York Times (March 9, 2018) reported on the Video Game & Violence discussion in the White House on March 8th, 2018. The Times noted that Pres. Obama in 2013 asked Congress to provide $10 million for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to study video game violence and actual violence. The Times notes “the funds were never allocated.” In the discussion, former US Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman said his research of video games and violence led him to believe that violent video games “are essentially murder simulators.”
Filmmaker Tonje Hessen Schei, director of the documentary Drone found that US Air Force recruiters looked for teenage video game whiz kids of 17 or 18 to train as killer drone pilots. Recruiters make the “no boots on the ground” pitch—-killing can be done from a safe console at one of many military bases such as the 174th Attack Wing detachments at Hancock Field in Syracuse, NY.
Assault type weapons seem to be the focus of many calling for gun regulations. But deaths from assault weapons are 2% of gun deaths in the United States. Handguns are used to kill more people than any other gun. Dick’s and Walmart are rightfully applauded for taking AR 15’s off their shelves. Yet those stores and thousands of gun sellers around the nation find handguns a major money maker. This profit factor leaves little hope for change—until the NRA is reduced to impotency.
Will the children lead us away from guns and militarism? Our collective conscience could be jolted by the March 24th March for Our Lives events in Washington DC and around the nation. It could be a game changer to weaken the NRA and begin to heal our addiction to violence.
Jack Gilroy is President of Broome County NY Veterans for Peace. His novels and plays focus on young men who refuse to train to kill. Gilroy has honorable discharges from the US Navy and US Army Infantry.