Ricochets From Roseburg (Random Notes on the Latest Gun Massacre du Jour)

chris mintz

The man in the photo is Chris Mintz, a 30-year-old army veteran and student at Umqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. When the shooter began his rampage, Mintz blocked his path and took 7 bullets, possibly saving lives in the process. See how easy it is to publish his name and photo instead of the name and photo of the killer, whose actions almost certainly will inspire imitators? Wouldn’t it be nice if the news media instead lavished all the attention on the heroes, so maybe more people would follow their example? (Fortunately, some media personalities are indeed catching on.)

Think I’m exaggerating about the imitation game? The killer is quoted as having written on a blog post that it “[s]eems like the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight,” And the day before his rampage, 4 high school students in California were arrested for plotting a Columbine-style event of their own, a scheme to storm into their school and murder as many people as possible.

This photo did make the rounds of Facebook, where it was hijacked for a meme with the text “Took 7 bullets; No White House invite”, or some variation thereof. Well, sure. If there’s just been a multiple murder, isn’t this a great time to take a cheap shot at President Obama? For christsake, this crap started immediately after the shooting, when Mintz was in the hospital with two broken legs. Couldn’t they have waited at least a couple of days?

In fact, the White House announced shortly thereafter that the president would be traveling to Roseburg to meet with families of victims (and speaking with Mintz as well), which no doubt made his critics quite happy, yes? Well, not quite. They responded with online declarations, in the vilest and most execrable terms, that he wasn’t welcome in Roseburg (as if they were authorized to speak for everyone there), and even calling for his assassination for daring to make such a visit. They accused him of “politicizing a tragedy”, even as they relentlessly politicized a tragedy. There’s obviously absolutely nothing the man possibly could do that would inspire them to do anything less than hate him full throttle; they’d despise every breath he takes even if he gave their children free Uzis to play with at school. They’ll take any excuse they can get — even what the guy does with his friggin’ umbrella.

Meanwhile, the president made a somber speech for the umpteenth time about how we have to do something to stop this kind of senseless “routine” violence, even though he probably knows damn well it’s never gonna happen, because he’s been in Washington long enough to know that the NRA has too many politicians by the musket balls.

Speaking from the crowded GOP clown car chortling down the campaign trail, Jeb Bush (who, bear in mind, is supposed to be the most intelligent member of the Bush clan) brushed off the need to take measures to prevent shootings like this because “stuff happens”, which he subsequently tried to clarify and justify by amending to “things happen”. And not wanting to let a perfectly good false analogy go to waste, he suggested that passing gun laws because people get shot is as pointless as passing laws to require fencing around swimming pools because kids drown. Thing is, some states do just that. Florida, for example, passed such a law in 2000. And it was signed by — let’s see, who was governor then? Oh, yes, one Jeb Bush. You can’t expect me to remember the name of every governor who was instrumental in rigging a presidential election for his brother, can you?

Other wingers and assorted members of the gun culture responded to the president’s concerns with astoundingly, excruciatingly boring predictability.  They always thrash about looking for something else besides guns to blame for for the carnage — video games, music, movies, even the “banning” of prayer from schools — even though such a ban, as you know, never actually happened. But maybe they’re inadvertently on the right track; maybe “things happen” because of other things that don’t happen.

If God allows gun massacres in churches where people pray constantly, why the hell would He stop them from happening in schools because people pray occasionally? Well, maybe those people in the churches (especially if they’re black churches) just brought it all on themselves. Ted Nugent (who, mind you, is not only a member of the NRA but a board member) referred to unarmed shooting victims as “losers”, thus carrying on the hallowed wingnut tradition of blaming the victim. They’ve even been known to blame Jews for dying in the Holocaust.

Rolling Stone was prompted to run a little piece called “4 Pro-Gun Arguments We’re Sick Of Hearing”. And what are those 4 arguments? Okay kiddies, let’s all follow the bouncing bullet: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people”; “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”; “But, mental health!”; “Second Amendment, baby!”

There is some validity to the “mental health” thing, but otherwise these are incredibly inane arguments, which just might have something to do with why they’re so incredibly popular. And there’s at least one more that’s equally inane and insane and stupid: “Hitler banned guns, and look at what happened.” There are at least three little problems with that widely circulated soundbite. First, regulating guns does not mean “banning” them. Second, Nazi gun laws had very little if any impact on the Holocaust or The Third Reich’s ascension. And third, Hitler did NOT ban guns — he actually loosened firearms restrictions.

Yet I always can tell when there’s been another mass shooting without even hearing the news. All I have to do is check my stats for this blog and see that there’s been a sudden spike in readership. Which means there’s been a sudden spike in people checking out my post The Myth Of Hitler’s Gun Ban. Because in the discussions about the shooting, there are invariably lots of people who toss out the idiotic notion that Nazi gun policy has some relevance to Twenty-First Century America. (Nazi propaganda techniques and Nazi self-delusion, yes. Nazi ideological fanaticism, maybe. Nazi gun policy, no.) The irony is that the Nazis passionately loved their guns — they had a slobbering love fest with their guns that almost rivals that of contemporary American reactionaries.

Plenty of myths have been trotted out as gospel during the past few days. There’s the myth that the shooter was a Muslim. Or that he was part of a widespread anti-Christian sentiment in America. (Which dovetails nicely with the myth that Cassie Bernall, one of the students murdered at Columbine, was killed after saying she believed in God.) There’s the myth that he was a Black Lives Matter protester out to kill whites, and that he was in general a librul; in fact, he was, like most rampaging gunmen, part of the right-wing loony fringe.

Above all, there’s the myth that the shooting occurred in a “gun-free” zone, and that mass shootings almost always do.  It didn’t. They don’t. Another popular gun culture myth riddled with bullet holes. Rush Limbaugh put the figure at 92 percent, prompting Media Matters to observe that he was “only off by 79 percent” — an usually high degree of accuracy for him.

There is no evidence that mass shooters have ever deliberately targeted gun-free zones. But if you think gun-free zones  are the problem, or more firepower is the solution, perhaps you should talk to this fellow:


His name is John Parker. He’s also a veteran. He’s also a student at the college. And he was also present when the shooting occurred. Furthermore, he was armed. Wait, wait, time out. He was armed?? And yet he didn’t stop the massacre??? How could this be? Doesn’t it run counter to the order of the universe? In his explanation for why didn’t get involved, he said:

And we could have opened ourselves up to be potential targets ourselves, and not knowing where SWAT was, their response time, they wouldn’t know who we were. And if we had our guns ready to shoot, they could think that we were bad guys.

That’s just one of several reasons why armed intervention by civilians is usually not a good idea. Other veterans and tactical experts also weighed in on the “armed good guy” meme, calling it “insane”.

Sorry, but being an armed civilian does not increase your chances of becoming a hero. It increases your chances of becoming an aggressor or a victim. That may be counter-intuitive. It may be unfair. It may be unprofitable. But it’s reality. (I know, I know. Statistics and probability apply only to other people, and if you and your guns ever get the chance, you’ll show the bad guys, by god.)

Still, the NRA pushes the deranged belief that the only answer to guns, guns and more guns is more guns, even more guns and still more guns. And the cash registers ka-ching their chorus of amens.

In Roseburg, Candi Kinney, owner of the Roseburg Gun Shop, was nearly salivating on her trigger finger over the influx of new business the carnage was bringing her:

I’ve just ordered some more ARs (assault rifles).There’s always a rush on them after a big shooting. We can’t keep the stuff on the shelves.

Whenever there are obscene profits to be made, human life is very cheap. (Just ask Dick Cheney.) And just to make certain her customers know who the real enemy is, Kinney’s armaments emporium features this subtle visual aid:

Obama gun shop

Coincidentally, the killer’s mother stockpiled firearms because she was convinced Obama was going to try to disarm the populace. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the major problems with guns is that there is no legal minimum intelligence requirement to own them. Or to sell them. Or defend them or promote them.

Welcome to the new normal in America. Where lead is considered one of the basic food groups. To Jeb Bush, shit happens. To Bill O’Reilly, senseless mass slaughter is just the price we pay for our “freedom” to be armed to everyone else’s teeth. And there’s nothing to be done, so just suck it up, buckaroo.

Meanwhile, the sheriff who responded to the UCC shootings had previously declared that he was not going to enforce any gun laws passed by the current administration — which he suggested had staged the Sandy Hook massacre as part of a plot to confiscate everyone’s guns. And after that incident, Congress quietly decided yet again to ban funding for research by the Center For Disease Control into the causes of gun violence. Yes, you read that right: the Second Amendmenters in Congress don’t even want anyone to research the factors that cause people to Second Amendment each other so much, a line of investigation they have branded as “propaganda” for “gun control”.  John Boehner’s cookie cutter dismissal of this potentially life-saving research was so robotic and dumb it was priceless.

I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease. Guns don’t kill people — people do. And when people use weapons in a horrible way, we should condemn the actions of the individual and not blame the action on some weapon.

Do people really say “guns don’t kill, people do” in what is supposed to be a serious discussion? People do. I’m sorry, John, but while a single gun may not be a disease, guns in the plural most definitely are. If you have doubts about the nature of the pestilence on the land, see Exhibit A: the diseased gun vendor mentioned above. And many others like her.

Many of the communities in which these bloodbaths have occurred — Roseburg, Newtown, Blacksburg, Charleston, Aurora, Jonesboro, Littleton — are places I have visited several times. I always found them to be serene and charming in the past. But now that image has been shattered — not just for me, but for everyone. And there are surely many more to come. The plague years in America are just beginning.