Op-Ed

Who profits from our gun and manhood problems?

Within hours of the worst shooting in modern American history came the usual talk of Second Amendment rights, men and their guns, and the collectability of assault rifles.

While gun enthusiasts defended their constitutional right to buy and collect, a report on the history of assault rifles called the guns used in mass killings “ready amplifiers of rage.”

What kind of man gets enthusiastic about a ready amplifier of rage? Do Americans have a gun problem or a manhood problem, or both?

The Village People sing a catchy tune about what it means to be a man. “Every man ought to be a macho, macho man, to live a life of freedom, machos make a stand. Have your own lifestyles and ideals, possess the strength of confidence, that’s the skill. You can best believe that he’s a macho man.”

The song came to mind with the recent runoff election for Judge Roy Moore down in Alabama. Noted conspiracy theorist, birther, Bible-quoter, gun rights advocate and militantly anti-gay, Judge Moore celebrated his big win by strolling onto the stage dressed in a black leather vest and Stetson, carrying a handgun. Dressed like one of the Village People.

Manhood as showmanship.

Manhood is on daily display in America, as the president himself needs constant reminders that he’s “the man.” During a briefing in Puerto Rico, he went around the table (as he once did in an on-camera Cabinet meeting) asking everyone to give a fawning litany about what a great job he’s doing, what a capable man he is.

The gun lobby exploits weak, insecure men like the president with their simple formula for manhood: Mass shooting occurs. Gun lobby’s paid-for Congressmen make their paid-for statements, “It’s not the time to talk about gun control. The liberals want to take away your guns.” Men run out and stockpile more guns.

Gun industry expert Brian Sullivan reports that 10 years ago we had about 3 million AR-15-style assault rifles out there. Now there are an estimated 8 million to 9 million.

Sullivan says, “The majority of the gun industry is controlled by a private equity firm called Cerberus, by a guy named Steven Feinberg who is very secretive, but he has basically bought all of the companies, Bushmaster, Remington, etc. … he is a reclusive guy, apparently doesn’t even use email, is a multi-billionaire…. The AR-15 has so many potential accessories it’s called ‘a Barbie doll for men.’”

Mass murder and manhood, it turns out, is worth billions.

This same week in October 2015, my dad and I had the following text message exchange about gun control:

Dad: The liberals want to take my guns.

Me: I don’t know a single liberal who wants to take guns away from responsible gun owners. Some of my liberal friends even own guns.

Dad: Who commits 90 percent of crimes? Not your average citizen, so why are we the target for new laws?

Me: Average citizens are not targets. The guy who drives to another state to buy 80 guns and then sells them on the street is the target. The guy who beat up his wife and she won’t/can’t press charges, he’s the target. None of the proposals for gun control target law abiding citizens. You could still buy a gun and so could I.

Dad: I did, and I may get more.

My dad is in his 70s, retired, on a fixed income, living in a small Missouri town with virtually no crime. He can’t remember the last time he shot a gun. But he hears the fearmongering calls of Rush Limbaugh and FOX news and the NRA and men like Judge Roy Moore, and they tell him he’s got to man up. So he buys more guns.

A white man with a gun massacred little children in their Sandy Hook classrooms, and Judge Roy Moore blamed it on “forgetting the law of God.” A white man with a gun murdered Americans in a Colorado movie theater. A white man with a gun shot a group of black churchgoers, one at a time, during Bible study. A white man with a cache of weapons fired hundreds of rounds from the 32nd floor into a crowd of 22,000.

Meanwhile, we are asked to spend billions on a border wall for our “security.” We are lectured by the president, Congress and right wing media to fear radical Muslims and black men and immigrants. Yet we never call white men who terrorize terrorists.

Such are the rules we obey here in our sweet land of liberty. Rules that keep getting us killed.

The Vegas shooter stockpiled 33 guns in one year. He carried 10 bags of guns into a hotel for a three-day stay, and no one noticed. “Gun stocks rose Monday following the deadliest mass shooting in American history.”

We have a gun problem. We have a manhood problem. We defend enthusiasts who stockpile ready amplifiers of rage. We are the United States of America.

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