If you read, as I have done, the official reports of both the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech, there is repeated emphasis on the importance of the schools’ security plans and the role of those plans in preventing campus shootings. Yet time after time, the schools’ security plans have not been given teeth to make them effective.
Those of us who do try to look at the root causes of America’s gun crisis are rarely given a chance to speak out in the national media. What we have to say is not shocking; it is not earth shaking, but it is critical to identifying potential killers who stalk our schools. We want the violence examined in terms of mental illness and other factors in society that make us ripe for these crimes.
The rightwing of the American body politic, however, has foisted off on the public the fallacy that a liberal media and liberal politicians want to take away citizens’ Second Amendment rights to own guns. The clamor of these extremists is so loud that Republicans, Democrats, Tea Party, Independents—almost all of them—are frightened of doing anything about stemming this tide of gun-related violence because eventually the subject of keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and those prone to violence will have to be addressed. Any talk of restricting gun ownership brings down the wrath of the National Rifle Association (NRA)—one of the most influential organizations in America today and one of the most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill.
How can we remain silent when politicians in Arizona, and elsewhere, fire guns at their campaign rallies or worse yet, run for office and openly advocate the use of firearms if they do not get their way? These people seem oblivious to the impact their words have on the emotionally disturbed. Most of them claim to be devout Christians and rant and rail against public expressions of nudity, such as bare-breasted statues of lady justice. Somehow they see the sight of a naked human body as having the potential to influence people into doing all sorts of “unseemly” sexual activities. They want to regulate artistic expression because in their suppressed lives they see words and statues as undermining this nation’s moral values. However, they don’t see their words and their outspoken advocacy of the use of guns as having any influence on people who are mentally ill or emotionally disturbed.
In the 99th District of the Virginia House of Delegates, a candidate, Catherine Crabill, was running for office and addressed a political rally in Heathsville, Virginia on July 15, 2009. During the rally Crabill asserted that if she and her followers could not get what they want at the ballot box or the jury box, they would get it at the “bullet box.” Her words were repeated throughout the country on the evening news. Her utterances were so disturbing that they even made the international news.
Ms. Crabill’s words so deeply upset several of the families of the victims of the Virginia school shootings that they drafted an open letter calling on the voters of the 99th District to reject her. When the ballots were counted, Crabill received an alarming 48 percent of the vote, narrowly losing to the Democrat incumbent. Apparently a large number of the electorate in the 99th District did not care if a candidate advocated gun violence. And yet some ask me why am I upset and why do I write.
The simple truth is that politicians such as Catherine Crabill make headline news. They call themselves “patriots” and they apparently feel that the use of that word gives them the right to advocate gun violence. Crabill is not alone.
Look at Jesse Kelley, the candidate who opposed the reelection bid of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona). In June, 2010, Kelley urged his supporters to “target” Gifford in the November elections and help remove her. One of his campaign slogans was, “Shoot a fully loaded automatic M-16 with Jesse Kelley.” His words were grotesque; his candidacy represents what appears to be a failure of ethics among people seeking public office throughout this country. Kelley clearly showed himself and his campaign to be based on superficial emotionalism, rather than substance and issues.
Even on the national level, politicians cannot resist using the image of guns to rally support. Politicians from both sides of the aisle often tell their supporters to “lock and load.” Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin “targeted” Giffords for removal on her now infamous map of politicians in the crosshairs.
On January 8, 2011, Jared Laughner, a demented and seriously ill young man, took Kelley and Palin up on their words. He shot Giffords in the head, seriously wounding her. He killed six people including a nine-year-old girl who had just been elected president of her student council. Laughner wounded 12 others. To say that words such as those used by Crabill, Kelley, and Palin don’t influence the Jared Laughners of this world is sheer nonsense. However, to say the three advocated killing is also nonsense. The crime is that Crabill, Kelley, and Palin do not recognize the power of their words to influence the emotionally disturbed.
You simply cannot hide the stupidity of many of the people in this country running for office—a large number of whom get elected. (To be continued)