Random DJB Thoughts, The Times We Live In
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Still shocked, despite the regularity

The BBC “top of the news” reporter said “despite the regularity, people are still shocked” after the May 6th mass shooting at an outlet mall near Dallas, Texas. The observation is right in noting the regularity. But how can anyone still be shocked by this news. If the day has a “y” in it, chances are good that there’s been a mass shooting somewhere in our country.

Somewhat appropriately, the BBC report came on just before the regularly scheduled programming which featured a new report in Reveal entitled, No Retreat: The Dangers of Stand Your Ground. In a string of recent shootings, the report noted, young victims have been killed or seriously injured over innocent mistakes.

In her May 6th Letters from an American newsletter, historian Heather Cox Richardson, who has long focused on the history of the Republican Party in America, began with the following three paragraphs.

For years now, after one massacre or another, I have written some version of the same article, explaining that the nation’s current gun free-for-all is not traditional but, rather, is a symptom of the takeover of our nation by a radical extremist minority. The idea that massacres are “the price of freedom,” as right-wing personality Bill O’Reilly said in 2017 after the Mandalay Bay massacre in Las Vegas, in which a gunman killed 60 people and wounded 411 others, is new, and it is about politics, not our history.

The Second Amendment to the Constitution, on which modern-day arguments for widespread gun ownership rest, is one simple sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” There’s not a lot to go on about what the Framers meant, although in their day, to “bear arms” meant to be part of an organized militia.

As the Tennessee Supreme Court wrote in 1840, “A man in the pursuit of deer, elk, and buffaloes might carry his rifle every day for forty years, and yet it would never be said of him that he had borne arms; much less could it be said that a private citizen bears arms because he has a dirk or pistol concealed under his clothes, or a spear in a cane.”

Where did today’s insistence that the Second Amendment gives individuals a broad right to own guns comes from? Richardson highlights two key origins:

  • “One is the establishment of the National Rifle Association in New York in 1871, in part to improve the marksmanship skills of American citizens who might be called on to fight in another war, and in part to promote in America the British sport of elite shooting, complete with hefty cash prizes in newly organized tournaments.” 

But that changed in the mid-1970s when a faction in the NRA forced the organization away from sports and toward opposing “gun control.” 

  • [T]he second thing that led us to where we are today: leaders of the NRA embraced the politics of Movement Conservatism, the political movement that rose to combat the business regulations and social welfare programs that both Democrats and Republicans embraced after World War II.

If you are not familiar with the term, Richardson defines “Movement Conservatives” as those who “embraced the myth of the American cowboy as a white man standing against the ‘socialism’ of the federal government as it sought to level the economic playing field between Black Americans and their white neighbors.”

Richardson lays out the history by noting that until 1959, “every single legal article on the Second Amendment concluded that it was not intended to guarantee individuals the right to own a gun.” However that changed in the 1970s, when “legal scholars funded by the NRA had begun to argue that the Second Amendment did exactly that.”

Awash with funds from gun and ammo manufacturers, the NRA by 2000 was one of the top three lobbying organizations in the country.

Historian of authoritarianism Ruth Ben-Ghiat has also weighed in recently about the unspoken and enormous economic cost of gun violence. If we want to end gun violence, she suggests, we need to let people know that “a different reality is desired by millions of Americans.” As an example she quotes a pitch by communications strategist Anat Shenker-Osorio: “Imagine sending your kid to school, and the biggest worry on their minds is, ‘Where did I put my homework?’ This is the future, and it’s ours for the taking…Losing too many of our loved ones to gun violence is a choice we don’t need to keep making.”

Historians provide important context to critical issues facing the nation today. I encourage you to read Richardson’s entire post, which ends with these two paragraphs:

The unfettered right to own and carry weapons has come to symbolize the Republican Party’s ideology of individual liberty. Lawmakers and activists have not been able to overcome Republican insistence on gun rights despite the mass shootings that have risen since their new emphasis on guns.

Tonight, I am, once again, posting yet another version of this article.

Even with a large majority of Americans supporting common-sense gun laws, the fight to hear their voices, the fight for democracy, never ends.

More to come…


Image by Julita from Pixabay

This entry was posted in: Random DJB Thoughts, The Times We Live In


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.

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