#3 – Dick Bernard: Binghamton NY April 3, 2009

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It wasn’t until late afternoon on Friday that I learned any details of the latest gun-related tragedy, this time in Binghamton NY. Thirteen dead, plus the shooter; four critically injured; possibly some cause and effect of the shooter having recently lost his job for some unknown reason; an apparent pre-meditated intention to kill as many as possible by blocking the door through which people might escape. It was all horrific.
As I write, Saturday morning, April 4, the facts are beginning to emerge: the shooter had two pistols on him, both registered firearms; he’s Vietnamese, apparently a U.S. citizen for decades; apparently knew well the place where he killed the thirteen people, most of them studying for citizenship…. The stories and analysis are just beginning.
Full disclosure: small arms were around me when I was growing up. Shooting gophers when they were pests on the North Dakota prairies was something I was accustomed to: their tails were worth a nickel, a lot of money to a kid, then. A bunch of us kids were playing with my Dad’s 22 calibre rifle when I was perhaps nine. It was hanging in the garage, and it was off-limits…. There was a bullet in the chamber; it went off; luckily nobody was killed (we were lucky). Dad and Mom never knew of that close call.
In the Army, I qualified as Expert with the M-1 Rifle. Thankfully I never had to use my skills. I have never owned a gun, or had an interest in purchasing one, and to the best of my recollection haven’t shot one since the Army days. There’s never been a gun in a home of mine. I have no issue against hunters and hunting in the traditional sense of that word: shotguns, regular rifles, licenses….
The national debate for years has gone far beyond the lines I describe above. We are an armed and very dangerous nation of far too many people armed to the teeth, wallowing in fear and resentment of this, that or the other.
Binghamton, April 3, 2009, could well be the tip of a very large iceberg.
I decided, last night, to check in on the two “poles” of our nation’s fascination/obsession with guns and other weapons to see how they were spinning Binghamton: the National Rifle Association and the Brady Campaign. www.nra.org and www.bradycampaign.org. As of 8 a.m. this morning, NRA does not have a word on what happened in Binghamton; as of last night, the Brady Campaign had commented. You can visit their website, and they can speak for themselves.
Even before the reports on Binghamton, I’ve seen scraps of information. One of the news reports I heard mentioned that in this country of 300,000,000, there are 250,000,000 firearms. The ban on assault weapons has apparently sun-setted; till yesterday afternoon there was no real interest in gun legislation…there are other bigger problems to deal with. Gun and ammunition sales are sky-rocketing in this country. We are awash in dangerous arms. The “Gun Lobby” is feared by politicians.
April 2, 2009 – a day before Binghamton – a New York Times editorial commented on a last minute federal regulation issued in December 2008 making concealed loaded guns legal in our national parks and wildlife refuges. “In December, ignoring proper procedure and the risk to public safety, the Bush administration rushed through regulations allowing people to carry concealed, loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges.” (The NRA website posted a commentary on that issue from a Joshua Tree, California, newspaper.) A Judge just threw out the rule, calling it “astoundingly flawed”. It remains to be seen if the court ruling will be appealed by the new administration.
And the top headline in yesterday’s Minneapolis paper, hours before Binghamton, was simple and stark: “Was this gun in the hand of Fong Lee when he was fatally shot by a Minneapolis police officer? Or was the weapon planted at the scene? One shooting. Two stories.”
Guns do make excellent partners for crime: A week or so ago Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking in Mexico, made news north of Mexico’s border when she observed that most of the weaponry in the current drug wars in Mexico came from U.S. sources; as did most of the demand for the illegal drugs which has precipitated the violence over drug territories in Mexico.
Those who revere gun rights will begin again reciting the mantra: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people”, and the like. Of course, concealed hand guns make killing easier.
We love our guns, and other unhealthy things.

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