Bob Franken


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Here’s advice for any of those who might want to use the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting to make the case for more restrictions on guns: Don’t bother. After all, the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary School — where 26 people, including 20 children, were mowed down by a mentally ill man — resulted in no meaningful action by lawmakers, so why would three more victims on a military base make any difference to politicians who are terrified of the National Rifle Association and its accomplices.
Never mind the repugnant absurdity that those who were shot dead or wounded by someone who was being treated for psychological problems had served in combat zones and finally made it “safely” home. Even the bitter realization that this occurred on a military facility won’t matter to our craven officeholders, nor will the fact that it’s happened before on this base, near the same arms shop where both assailants bought their weapons of mass destruction.
Yes, there will be handwringing. It’s already going on. Again. And it’s certainly justified. But the people who could make a difference are paralyzed by their fear of the NRA, which can whip millions of gun owners into a frenzy whenever it wants.

No one seems to care about what this does to the prestige of our country in the rest of the world. What is so bizarre is how the very same people who demand patriotic fervor over “American Exceptionalism” refuse to heed the warning signs of how our nation is slipping. Read New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s piece “We’re Not No. 1! We’re Not No. 1!,” in which he cites a new “Social Progress Index” that lists the United States as 16th around the world in overall livability, 70th in health and low in other specific rankings. Obviously, we are a nation in decline.
Simply making that statement will bring on an uproar from beneath the sands where the ostrich jingoists bury their heads. “You must really hate the U.S.” they will shout, but they have it upside down. Many of us who raise these alarms love our country and what it stands for, way too much to allow all our precious ideals to be frittered away into the obscurity of broken promises.
Another newspaper column, this one in The Washington Post from Oxford professor emeritus Stein Ringen, reminds us that two millennia ago, Greek democracy faded into history after just 250 years. It was done in by growing economic inequity and, more importantly, by politicians who were afraid to correct the problems of that glorious nation. His obvious point is that the United States of America is sliding down that same slippery slope.
There are so many issues that desperately need to be addressed. And that certainly includes the scourge of guns. Plainly and simply, we are deteriorating into a war zone. The response by our leaders is to make the situation worse. Instead of putting minimal prohibitions on weapons, they buckle under to the arms purveyors’ lobbyists and lift what paltry restrictions are already in place. They even succeed in hobbling enforcement of what few laws remain, and astonishingly are able to inhibit any research on the public health risks their instruments of death present.
About the only solution they offer for the repeated massacres from deranged killers is to upgrade mental-health services. That’s true, of course, but while obvious, it’s not that easy to accomplish. Does anyone seeking therapy lose the right to own a gun? How would he or she be registered, particularly when registration is such a bugaboo?
As it stands, what starts as a dispute can turn to murder at the hands of an angry person with easy access to weaponry. At Fort Hood, investigators say the latest killings followed a “verbal altercation.” Innocents were then mowed down, having recently returned from a war zone abroad to the new one back home.

© 2014 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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