"I think the two fundamental issues were that Donald Trump doesn't read anything. Let me accent that — anything. Nothing. If you're working for the president of the United States, that's an odd position because how do you get information to him? That's already a major hurdle. But then there's the second hurdle — that not only does he not read; he doesn't listen. So it becomes from Day One, the crisis of the presidency: You can't tell him anything." - Michael Wolff
The world has a serious masculinity crisis. And in the US, that crisis is directly linked to its gun violence epidemic.
Laura KIssel raised the topic again this week. And the comments prove two things. First, they strengthen her argument. And second, they prove we will never even try to address this crisis. Not even try.
The gun violence epidemic in the United States is both a public health and a cultural crisis. Since I last raised this topic in 2007, the number of firearms in the US surpassed the number of living citizens. 100 million new guns. This is our crisis now and until the end of this broken republic.
In a groundbreaking study, published in September 2016, The Guardian found that about half the nation's firearns are owned by 3% of the population. In addition, the number of handguns in the US has skyrocketed since Bill Clinton's first term. Our nation is being held hostage by a 3℅ gun crazy minority. The US population has increased, and overall gun ownership has declined since Clinton took office. But we have seen the rise of the "super owners."
A gun crazy three percent, and a craven, virtually worthless Republican party. I knew we were in serious trouble if the Democrats collapsed in November. And they did. And now we are at the mercy of the gun lobby and the GOP.
Gun-related news is part of the background noise in the US. Just this week, Smith and Wesson released the long-awaited second version of their M&P pistol. And in Fort Lauderdale, a possibly schizophrenic young man emptied his magazine in an airport's baggage claim area, killing 5 and wounding 8. Just a normal, acceptable mass shooting. In almost any other nation, there would be a quick reexamination of flight rules and gun policy. Not here. Rampages are perfectly normal and acceptable. New guns need to be sold.
While Glenn Beck is hysterically predicting the imminent collapse of the Mexican State, it might be a good time to ask if Mexico is in danger of becoming a 'failed state.' Outside of this asked the same question about Russia, given its extreme division between rich and poor, its high rate of underage drinking, and its widespread alcoholism. The answer on Russia I received was that Russia was in a state of social decay. Given the events in northern Mexico these last 6 months, I am tempted to say that the political decay is similar to that in Russia, albeit for different reasons.
I am very late joining the discussion about Mexico. But here goes. The spiking drug violence in Mexico is not isolated to the city of Tijuana or the states of Baja and Chihuahua. Crime is also spiking in the Cancun region, where killings and kidnappings have become commonplace. The same is true in dense suburbs of Mexico City, where murder and kidnapping is on the rise after a decade of decline. The drug war in Mexico is being waged by both local police and the army. To this blogger, it seems that coordination among all law enforcement and military is very loose. Also, there is no standardization of uniforms or equipment among the police forces. A lot of police officers are in street clothes, which can confuse citizens, and has led to tragic incidents of mistaken identity, vigilantism, and police brutality. Further complicating things, all agencies have been compromised by corruption. Just two days ago, the police chief in Cancun was arrested for alleged involvement with the torture and murder of an Army general, who had been sent to Cancun this month to coordinate a new anti-gang task force.
Some other recent developments in the last week:
Reuters, February 6th: Mexico drug gangs threaten cops on radio, kill them
AP, February 9th: Mexican drug violence spills over into U.S.
Reuters, February 10th: Drug gang clash with army kills 21 in Mexico
It was one of the bloodiest scenes this year in a spiraling drug war that killed more than 5,700 people across Mexico in 2008, damaging the public's faith in President Felipe Calderon and raising fears of a spillover into the United States.
Calderon deployed the army and federal police to tackle drug violence at the end of 2006, triggering a series of vicious turf battles between rival cartels.
I got another gang story to tell.
Peep, about how a black nigga was born in hell.
And right then and there it's no hope
cause a nigga can't escape the gangs and the dope.
And when its black on black, that makes it shitty.
Can't survive in the Compton city.
And fool thats bet.
Cause when you grow up in the hood, you gots ta claim a set.
Its not that you want to but you have to.
Don't be a mark, cause niggas might laugh you
straight off the mutherfuckin block.
Can't deal with bustas so they asses get clocked.
who gives a fuck about another.
Only got love for my fuckin gang brothers.
but I'm young so nobody would wonder
That the hood would take me under.
[scratching: always strapped and eager to peel a cap
The hood done took me under.]
Now I'm a few ages older
got hair on my nuts and I'm a little bit bolder.
And puttin in work, I has to do my fuckin part,
I'm down for the hood and its planted in the heart.
At school slappin on the girls asses
Fuck the white education so I skip a lot of classes.
Cause ain't no teaching a nigga white reality.
Teach me the mutherfuckin gang mentality.
Pop pop pop, drops the sucker
if he's from another hood I gots ta shoot the mutherfucker.
I'm in it to win it and can't quit.
And ready die for this shit.
One times can't fade the gang tuff.
Puttin my foot in your ass to make times rough.
I'm the neighborhood terror but I never wondered
that the hood would take me under.
+[police is hot, so I'm watching my back...]
I guess I'll watch my back cause niggas jivin'
Times heard this brother pulled a 187.
Who I thought was my homie dropped the dime.
So I gotta peel his cap with the nine.
so if its on then its on, fuck ya G,
because how the odds are looking, its either him or me.
So I loads up the strap and I step
cause my brain cells are dead and all I think is death.
Revenge. That's what its all about.
See the sucker, take the mutherfucker out.
Stare the fool down with the eye contact.
He try to swing so I draw on him with the gatt.
Blast was the sound that one times heard uh
Nigga 25 to life for the murder.
Was it worth it I've always wondered.
Maybe if the hood didn't take me under.
We have seen an increase in mass shootings in the USA as this decade has progressed. Here's a quick count as of this incident in Omaha, Nebraska:
- 2001: 0
- 2002: 0
- 2003: 1
- 2004: 0
- 2005: 2
- 2006: 3
- 2007: 4
When the story broke, I thought the news media was incorrectly calling the rifle used in the crime as an AK-47. Some of the first stories called it an SKS rifle, and I assumed that was correct. But knowing that the young shooter fired over 30 rounds, and as the video footage shows, it was indeed an AK-47. A military weapon in the hands of a disturbed, suicidal 19 year old boy had catastrophic consequences. And the gun can be legally purchased today thanks to the expiration of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban.
And the fans of old communist-designed rifles continue to encourage gun owners to stock-up on them before Congress eventually reinstates the ban.
The SKS, if you recall, is one of the least expensive military weapons you can buy today (sometimes as cheap as $50). Dubbed the 'poor man's deer rifle,' it preceded the AK-47 by two years. And it was a popular weapon to modify and reuse in the 1990s by members of the militant anti-abortionist / 'patriot movement,' as the Reverend Matt Trewhella famously told an audience in 1994:
This Christmas, I want you to do the most loving thing. I want you to buy each of your children a SKS rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition.
Since then, our favorite conservative blogger in Raleigh has written advice on how to survive a mass shooting in a shopping mall. Guns, real estate, and premium backyard charcoal grills seem to be his specialities
Heartbreaking stories coming out of Rio de Janeiro concerting the gang and drug-related gun violence that seems to be relentless since 2004 / 2005. Bullets fired into the air or from the hills spare no one. What goes up must come down.
And it isn't just the gangs who are shooting bystanders. The police in both Rio and Sao Paulo are widely known to shoot or beat people first and ask questions later. Amnesty International filed this report when the current surge in violence began.
Brazilian urban slums are known as farvelas. And while the gang violence in Brazil's two largest cities is not common to other urban slums around the world, they still share the same fundamental traits.
Mark Davis is a Los Angeles journalist and an urban historian and theorist. I highly recommend his book, Planet of Slums, to learn more about what slums are becoming in the 21st century. You thought the late 20th century was bad for the world's urban poor. We not only have extreme poverty and suffering in densely-populated areas, but increasingly, we have military or military-style operations within these areas, which can kill scores of people. In the last few years, Brazil has deployed assault vehicles to engage in firefights with gangs in public streets. These operations have killed criminals and innocents alike.
And 21st century warefare is increasingly urban. The Battle of Mogadishu ("Black Hawk Down") was the US's first 21st century military operation (if you accept the Soviet collapse of August 1991 to be the start of the 21st century as I do). In 2003, Israel experimented with rifles fitted with muzzle video cameras so troops can shoot around corners without exposing themselves in dense urban areas (Gaza). And the US military is designing tiny flying vehicles that can deliver small bombs to living quarters in dense neighborhoods that feature open windows and doors (the slums and shantytowns we see in the third world).
Virginia doesn't give a rat's ass about its guns coming to New York City.
I know I don't like Michael Bloomberg. I will never forgive him for inviting the RNC to hold their convention here and allowing the NYPD to give over 1,000 young residents a taste of life in a wartime detention center. Yes, he wants the doctors of our city hospitals to know how to perform surgical abortions (bravo). And he banned smoking in bars and restarants (bravo, again). But he's still a Republican Putz. He'd rather fly a helicopter to work than ride the 6 Train, but he does it so he can show that he can tolerate low-lifes like me (gee, thanks, I guess).
But he has mentioned illegal guns coming from Virginia before. And here, Michael Daly of the NY Daily News provides an excellent summary of NYC's relationship to guns that originate in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Yes, Virginia, Guns Kill Innocents
By MICHAEL DALY
DAILY NEWS COLUMNIST
Posted Tuesday, April 17th 2007, 9:22 AM
Still love those guns, Virginia?
Ready to admit that it's madness for any psycho to be able to saunter into a gun shop and acquire firepower capable of killing 32 innocents?
Feel different now that the blood is the blood of so many of your most promising young people?
You've been shrugging for decades as illegal guns from your state plague our city, killing and maiming and terrorizing New Yorkers by the thousands, at one point comprising 47% of the guns our cops recovered.
You even yukked it up with a "Bloomberg Gun GiveAway" raffle at a gun shop that sold at least 22 guns used in crimes in New York.
You went into a tizzy when Mayor Bloomberg sued some of your gun shops after undercover agents made fraudulent "straw purchases."
Your idea of gun control has been to pass a law making it illegal for undercover agents like those Bloomberg sent South to make such buys.
You seemed to think it was no big deal when an aide to your junior U.S. senator got caught carrying an automatic pistol into the Capitol, you having voted Sen. James Webb into office as an avowed opponent of gun control.
You had a big debate this year about whether Virginia Tech was wrong to discipline a student who was caught carrying a licensed pistol to class.
Never mind that a Virginia gun license is not half as hard to get as a driving license.
Never mind that there are so many guns lying around that an escaped jailbird managed to get hold of one and kill a cop and a security guard at the edge of the Virginia Tech campus at the start of the school year.
Yesterday, the shooting was in the heart of the campus, which suddenly felt like the bleeding heart of the whole nation.
We certainly have enough parents in New York who know all too well what the families of Virginia Tech will be suffering.
We also have cause anew to give thanks for the bravery of Auxiliary Police Officers Eugene Marshalik and Nicholas Pekearo, who died stopping a crazed gunman in Greenwich Village in March.
We have reason to remember Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly saying that the two brave auxiliaries and the equally brave cops who then killed the gunman may well have prevented a massacre. Our psycho certainly had enough bullets.
When we listened to yesterday's gunshots as recorded by a cell phone video, we assumed the police we saw holding back had been ordered to watch the perimeter while other cops charged through the chained doors toward the gunfire. We hoped they had not hesitated as the cops did during the massacre at the Columbine High School in 1999.
We replayed yesterday's video and listened to those gunshots again, each the hyper-real sound of a gun doing exactly what it is engineered to do no matter who is holding it, no matter who it is pointed at, be they on a New York street or in Norris Hall at Virginia Tech.
Today, Virginia Tech will hold a public convocation in the wake of the carnage. President Bush has said he will attend, but his spokeswoman assures us he remains a firm believer in the right to bear arms.
Also expected to be there is Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who is returning early from an overseas trip. He recently signed Bill 2106, the anti-Bloomberg legislation that forbids undercover agents from making straw purchases.
Not even the worst campus massacre in American history is about to stop Bob Moates Sports Shop of Midlothian, Va., from going ahead with its big Bloomberg Gun GiveAway. The winner will receive a Para-Ordinance Model 1911 .45 automatic, silver and no less deadly than the black pistol a witness says the Virginia Tech psycho used. The 1911 is part of the company's new line of "Gun Rights" pistols, which carry the guarantee the company will donate $25 to the National Rifle Association for every one sold.
"The drawing is April 19," a man at Moates said yesterday.
No wonder some of our cops up here in New York say the bumper stickers down there should really read, "Virginia Is for Gun Lovers."
What do you say now, Virginia?
The world gave a lot of attention and sympathy to the USA yesterday, which is always extraodinary. Look at the names of the countries below and think of how many young people in those countries died yesterday (take the Philippines, for example). American youth and American youth culture are still loved around the world. I'll write more about this soon.
Massacre sparks foreign criticism of U.S. gun culture
By Michael Perry
Tuesday April 17, 2007
Foreign politicians and media attacked America's "gun culture" on Tuesday after a gunman killed 32 people in the country's worst shooting rampage.
Prime Minister John Howard said tough Australian legislation introduced after a mass shooting in Tasmania in 1996 had prevented the U.S. gun culture emerging in his country.
The Australians subsequently imposed laws banning almost all types of semi-automatic weapons.
"We showed a national resolve that the gun culture that is such a negative in the United States would never become a negative in our country," said Howard, extending sympathies to the families of the victims at Virginia Tech university.
The attacker killed himself in a classroom after opening fire on students and staff in an apparently premeditated massacre on Monday morning.
The gunman was an Asian male who was a student at the university and a dormitory resident, Virginia Tech President Charles Steger told CNN. His name was not released.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed their sympathies. Iran, at loggerheads with the United States over its nuclear program, spoke out against the killings.
"Iran condemns the killing of Virginia university students and expresses its condolences to the families of victims and the American nation," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said in a statement, which was faxed to Reuters.
"AS AMERICAN AS APPLE PIE"
European newspapers saw a grim inevitability about the shootings, given the right to bear arms which is enshrined in America's constitution. In Italy, the Leftist Il Manifesto newspaper said the shooting was "as American as apple pie."
More than 30,000 people die from gunshot wounds in the United States annually and there are more guns in private hands than in any other country. But a powerful gun lobby and support for gun ownership have largely thwarted attempts to tighten controls.
"It would be vain to hope that even so destructive a crime as this will cool the American ardor for guns," the Independent newspaper said in a commentary.
Gerard Baker, a columnist for The Times newspaper, feared worse was yet to come: "The truth is that only an optimist would imagine Virginia Tech will hold the new record for very long."
France's Le Monde newspaper said such episodes frequently disfigure the "American dream."
"The ... slaughter forces American society to once again examine itself, its violence, the obsession with guns of part of its population, the troubles of its youth, subjected to the double tyranny of abundance and competition," it wrote.
Campaigners in other countries where gun ownership is common expressed fears of a similar massacre.
Nandy Pacheco, head of the Philippines anti-gun lobby, Gunless Society, said he feared it could happen there.
"Not a day passes without a gun-related incident happening (in the Philippines). You hear it on radio, see it on TV and read it in newspapers," he said.
Gun ownership is commonplace in the Philippines, from housewives worried about burglary to politicians fearful of assassination. There are around 1.1 million guns, and police estimate that around 30 percent of them are unlicensed.
Shootings over trivial incidents are commonplace. A few years ago several fatal karaoke bar shootouts were sparked by poor renditions of Frank Sinatra's "My Way."
(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Paris, Phil Stewart in Rome and Kate Kelland and Parisa Hafezi in London)
A glock .22 pistol, similar to one of the weapons used in the Virginia Tech massacre. Photo by Flickr user
used under a Creative Commons license
There are over 200 million handguns in the USA, owned by at least 60 million households and individuals, both law-abiding and not. And as one of my favorite teachers, Sut Jhally explained last decade, we have a serious masculinity crisis
. Those two facts together creates an explosive mix.
Another young male went on an armedrampage today. It has happened in high schools, universities, and workplaces. It has happened on trains, in shopping malls and restaurants. And it will happen again and again.
UPDATE, 14:40EDT: The death toll at Virginia Tech has been revised to 33, including the gunman. This means that today's massacre is the worst mass shooting in US history, easily surpassing U Texas Austin in 1966 and Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, TX in 1991.
VT is an ACC school, a major university, and this will change that campus forever. We have to go way back in US history to find the last time so many people were shot on US soil outside of the Civil or Revolutionary wars. And I think that event is the massacre at Wounded Knee. Remember Kent State? It saddens me to say that this is far, far worse in terms of the number of people directly affected.
Now this is slightly off-topic, but imagine an event like this occurring every day in the United States. That's what life is like in Iraq, a much smaller country, where more ordinary civilians know victims of events like these.
America, we have a problem. Now what are we going to do about it besides listen to politicians lecture us about it? We rank with Thailand, Slovakia, Colombia, and South Africa as having some of the highest rates of gun homicides. It is despicable. And massacres by citizens as opposed to gangs or police seems to be an American phenomenon. We're supposed to be better than that.