When the victors pretend to be the victims

Published 9:50 am Friday, April 26, 2013

Column: Notes from Home, by David Behling

Something terrible happened today, and somebody died because of it. Most of us just don’t know it yet. A similar deed of terrible violence happened yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. Most of us don’t know much about those other events, either.

But there are some people who do — the families of the victims certainly do, but so do the families of the perpetrators.

Email newsletter signup

Gun violence claims lives every day in this country. Sometimes in groups large enough to get on the news, but most of the time in ones and twos. Taken all together, the toll is in the thousands every year. A slow-moving massacre.

Some of these killings are due to criminal activity but many are the result of arguments within families or between friends. A number of these killings are accidental, which might make some claim they aren’t real acts of violence. But bullets fired by accident still pierce tissue, spill blood and brains. Lives are taken violently whether the firing of a gun is intentional or accidental; the blood-spattered walls and floors look pretty much the same.

Last December, in the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I wrote about gun violence, gun control and the NRA. In that essay I wrote this: “What’s more relevant and important is what we as a society do next, in memory of those 20 children. Will we say ‘no’ to citizens who want to buy guns designed to kill huge numbers of people in a few minutes? Will we wail and gnash our teeth for a few weeks, and then continue arming ourselves for Armageddon?”

At this point I think I have my answer, sort of. Despite the steady support for sensible monitoring of gun purchases among a majority of Americans, even among gun-owning Americans, so far it looks like we continue arming ourselves.

What is still hard for me to believe is how the NRA continues to claim the position of victim in all of this. And apparently we believe them. The NRA won the argument over gun rights years ago. They set the parameters for discussion — silence rules — and the proposals — none.

Don’t believe me? Go back to what I wrote in December: “Who has a chance standing against them (the NRA)? Which journalists and politicians have challenged them and not been punished? The president himself stays away from anything related to guns; it took the deaths of 20 children to get him to finally talk about gun control.”

So the real question for me is how the NRA is using its power over gun regulation. Or should we say abusing. Playing the role of victim fighting off the forces of evil, the NRA only wants to talk about punishing criminals who use guns (inconveniently after the fact for the victims) and our own tyrannical government.

Back in December the NRA proposed that armed guards be hired for every school, and that teachers and principals start carrying guns in their classrooms. While the notion of all that firepower in classrooms with little kids upset some, others noticed that they did not offer to pay for all those guards and guns. Guess that budget balancing isn’t as necessary as we all thought.

Actually, I think they missed a whole bunch of others who need guns, like wives and girlfriends, who are often the victims of violence. If we provide weapons and training, they can shoot their spouses and boyfriends when it becomes necessary: Always be prepared to stand your ground when attacked by loved ones.

Dark sarcasm is so unpleasant, isn’t it?

What the “well-regulated” words in the Second Amendment mean is not a game to be played between lobbyists, legislators and lawyers. Today, paranoid gun owners still hold us in their power; apparently, because they have the guns, we have to listen to them. There’s no other way to read the lack of action in St. Paul and Washington.

As we collectively and individually reflect on the words and deeds of our so-called representatives, pondering whether to re-elect them in a year or two, we need to be the kind of adults our kids need us to be so they can grow up.


David Rask Behling teaches at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, and lives with his wife and children in Albert Lea.