The day was gray and misty when my wife and I traveled to Arlington National Cemetery.
We were there to bury her father, a retired Air Force colonel, with full honors.
We walked behind the caisson, past row upon row of headstones…
If you’ve never been there, it’s quite a sight; pictures don’t do it justice.
We walked for almost a mile until we got to the grave site, in the shadow of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The entire service was quite a moving experience.
The weather only intensified the event. A band played with the color guard and an honor guard stood at attention.
Everything was steeped with ritual.
When the service was over, we walked back to our cars and talked with friends and colleagues who had attended the service. At one point, one of our nephews came over and gave me a couple of the shell casings from the 21-gun salute. The casings had been collected and given to the family as keepsakes and were shared among the surviving children.
As I rolled them around in my hand, a feeling began to wash over me.
These casings from the rifles that sent out reports across the solemn fields of fallen soldiers were somehow a comfort and a talisman for the service, honor and sacrifice of my father-in-law and his family.
Yet almost every month, or even week now, casings tell a much different story with school and work shootings across the country. They leave different indelible mark as the reports ring out.
That is the great challenge of the gun culture we have built in the United States. We see it again unfolding across the nation as sentiment builds to strengthen gun control legislation and firearm sales surge.
The sad reality is, with news cycles that are about three to five days long and the holiday season coming soon, most of the emotion and focus on illegal guns and what criminals and disturbed people do with them will dissipate. We will likely never have a chance to really talk about the underlying issues of trying to prevent such tragedies occurring with such depressing regularity.
For me, it’s less a gun issue than it is a statement on the lack of mental health support services for at-risk people. It’s likely no coincidence that a lot of the shooters are in their late teens and early 20s, just when difficult mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar symptoms truly manifest themselves. That and first-person-shooter video games need to be explored.
Undiagnosed paranoid, delusional, depressed people with access to semi-automatic rifles and pistols means that massacres such as took place in Newtown and in the Colorado cities of Aurora and Columbine could continue to happen. But the passion on both sides gets in the way of any meaningful dialogue. Gun grabbers want to grab, and gun owners want their freedom. So half-measures are proposed and sometimes even enacted that do little to “solve” the problem.
Also, bear in mind that there is a lot of money in this issue. The National Rifle Association, for all its merits, also uses it financial power to keep politicians on a short leash when it comes to any kind of conversation about gun control. The NRA spends something like $20 million a year lobbying politicians. That kind of money distorts the entire debate.
Anyway, it gets back to what I tell my kids: it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what you do. And the cold reality is, gun sales have gone crazy.
Maybe this is the great fear among some people that no matter who is elected president they will be persuaded to seize all the guns in America and throw people in concentration camps.
There was a man who did that very thing…
Adolph Hitler was quoted as saying: “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subjugated races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subjugated races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or native police.”
Those who want a one-world government certainly seem to be going down this path that Hitler laid out.
But Congress and the Supreme Court would actually have to go along (the separation of powers, which is as, if not more, important to democracy than the 2nd Amendment). That’s how our republic works. The president is not king — and can’t be.
There is also big money in the business of guns. And I wonder about the companies and those who invest in them.
In my opinion, these companies will not be sued out of business, or even be forced out of business. The military relies on them, the militarized police lean on their products…
So Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation (SWHC), Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc. (RGR) and Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) will still be around, as they have been for a very long time. And they will likely continue to remain strong because of a private demand surge that will likely parallel any calls for new gun control measures.
Olin Corporation and National Presto Industries are little-known but established ammunition makers that will also move with demand and sales. If they don’t, it’s a decent speculation that the politicians will do a lot of talking but have neither the will nor the interest in taking on any meaningful change, one way or the other after the election.
I mean, these people can’t even work together to save the United States from the financial noose that they tied themselves.
In this country, it’s likely that as sure as the powers that be will continue to expand the fields of Arlington, so will the list of shootings we see in our schools, malls, homes and theaters expand as well unless we look for the right answers. Maybe we can use this upcoming holiday season to give that some thought.
— GS Early