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Mohave County
May 2024
Volume 24 Issue 3
COMPLIMENTARY

May 2023 | Editorial | 0 comments

Public Health 101: Guns

Editorial | 0 comments

May 2023

By Tom H. Hastings

A Texas “gun enthusiast,” Francisco Oropeza, 39, was firing off his AR15 in his yard Friday night about 40 miles from Houston. He was known to be touchy, so, despite the noise and danger, no one approached him.

Finally, after 11 p.m., his neighbor did. He said something like, “Hey, man, can you not do that? We’ve got an infant in here trying to sleep.” 

So, in America, what does a righteous gun owner do when his rights, his dignity, and his command over his own property are threatened by such outrageous demands?

Of course, Mr. Oropeza marches to the offending neighbor’s home and bravely stands up for his Second Amendment rights. He shoots most of the family dead–five of them, including an eight-year old. Two smaller children were saved by their mothers shielding them with their bodies and of course that was just an extra affront to the intrepid rifle owner, who shot both women dead. As of this writing, Mr. Oropeza is apparently surrounded by law enforcement.

So it goes. There is nothing to be done in our fair land. In Texas, it’s particularly sensitive. That’s where Trump did his kick-off rally to honor those who tried to overthrow the US government when Trump lost the election. He did it in Waco, naturally, where, exactly 30 years ago, rightwing religious cult members–the Branch Davidians–were killed in a stupid ATF raid that was then marked by the militia members bombing the Oklahoma City federal office building on the Waco siege anniversary. Trump played on all this, either with his speech or with imagery on a big screen behind him. At least one preacher calls Trump “anointed of God the battering ram that God is using to bring down the Deep State of Babylon.”

Alllllrighty, then. 

Trump repeated much of his message at the recent National Rifle Association convention, telling the gun rights crowd, “I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.”

Yeah, you da man, Trump. I’m betting Mr. Oropeza heard you loud and clear. 

As did Ettore Lacchei, of Antioch, Illinois, who approached his neighbor doing some leaf-blowing in his own yard in the late afternoon. Mr. Lacchei didn’t get the neighbor to immediately stop, so he naturally assumed control of the situation by shooting his neighbor dead in the head. That was April 12.

Most of us have heard of young Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old Black kid who was supposed to go to a Kansas City, Missouri house he didn’t know and pick up his younger brothers. He knocked on the door but it wasn’t the right house. An elderly white man, Andrew Lester, who, according to his grandson, had become increasingly devoted to Trump, didn’t risk opening the door to this skinny kid. He courageously shot the boy in the head right through the glass and then shot him again in the arm as he lay bleeding. Miraculously, Yarl is still alive. Lester explained that he was afraid due to “the size of the male,” and described his victim–er, the threatening Black male–as “around six feet tall.” Yeah, um, Ralph is 5-feet-eight and 140 lbs.

The Gun Violence Archive notes where mass shootings happen but no one died, and it seems that, so far this year, Jasper, Texas teens hold that record at a party where 11 were shot but everyone survived. Should we assume the shooter was highly trained and only meant to wound partygoers? Guns, alcohol, and teens. What could go wrong?

What happens, politically, when these routine mass murders – committed quite often by MAGA followers, and certainly almost always by NRA believers – are considered by our illustrious elected officials? 

We are told most frequently that, in the wake of such tragedy, now is not the appropriate time to talk of change; it’s time for thoughts and prayers. Of course there is no let up to these killings committed by the proud boys who defend unlimited gun rights, so I suppose we just deal with an ongoing tsunami of thoughts and prayers and perpetually postpone actual change.

Sometimes some pesky Mothers and others do the legwork to get new gun laws passed, as they did in my state of Oregon, but, as always, the alert lawyers from the NRA, sport shooting groups, etc., come to the rescue and those new gun laws are stopped, usually overturned, since we have a Second Amendment to protect access to combat weaponry. 

And everyone knows it’s impossible to repeal an Amendment to the US Constitution, right? Well, there was that one time…the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment. But that was special, because the 18th Amendment was Prohibition. Repealing the Second Amendment? Want to try? We know how to deal with such betrayal. Lock and load.

America: where all attempts to curb access to guns are shot down. Should we raise a glass to that? And I suppose we should stop calling children who are murdered anything but our expression for war casualties who happen to be four, five, six years old, “collateral damage.” If it’s good enough for Vietnamese children, Afghan children, Iraqi children–good enough for your children, right?

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is Coördinator of Conflict Resolution BA/BS degree programs and certificates at Portland State University, PeaceVoice Senior Editor, and on occasion an expert witness for the defense of civil resisters in court. 

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