Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Veneration of guns in USA; USA today is estimated to have 8 to 15 million assault rifles in citizen hands; Worrying growth of armed right-wing groups in USA

Note that readers who prefer not to read about such disturbing matters like guns, assault rifles and armed right-wing groups may please skip reading the rest of this post.

This post touches upon a very senstive topic. After some thought I felt it appropriate to publicly express my views on this topic.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assault%20rifle defines assault rifle as "any of various intermediate-range, magazine-fed military rifles (such as the AK-47) that can be set for automatic or semiautomatic fire; also : a rifle that resembles a military assault rifle but is designed to allow only semiautomatic fire".

The AR-15 which was used in both the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Florida, USA in June 2016 and in the Parkland school mass shooting in Florida, USA in February 2018, is referred to as an assault weapon in the media but according to more authoritative sources, is not an assault weapon (but is close to it).

A small extract from concluding part of the article: America Is the Gun by Charles Blow, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/25/opinion/america-is-the-gun.html, 25th Feb. 2018 :

The American idea is caught up in carnage. Its very beginning is rooted in gun violence. It is by the barrel that this land was acquired. It is by the barrel that the slave was subdued and his rebellions squashed. And that is to say nothing of our wars.

We have venerated the gun and valorized its usage. America is violent and the gun is a preferred instrument of that violence. America, in many ways, is the gun.
--- end extract from New York Times article ---

The above article also mentions the following points:

* No registry for assault rifles

* No funds for research on how to treat firearm injuries

* N.R.A. estimates that between 8.5 million and 15 million assault rifles are in circulation, based on manufacturer data
------

Ravi: Note that USA population today is around 327 million, https://www.census.gov/popclock/.

Here's a relevant article: Why the AR-15 keeps appearing at America's deadliest mass shootings, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/02/14/ar-15-mass-shootings/339519002/, 14th Feb. 2018.

Short extracts from it:

AR-15-style rifles have increasingly appeared in American mass shootings, including the deadliest high school shooting in the nation's history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Wednesday.
..

The National Rifle Association has called the AR-15 — the semi-automatic, civilian version of the military’s M-16 — the "most popular rifle in America" and estimates Americans own more than 8 million of them.
--- end usatoday.com article extracts ----

The article mentions that the feature of adding high-capacity magazines to the rifles makes such rifles including the AR-15 attractive to people who want to do mass shootings. Such magazines may hold as much as 100 rounds (a round is one bullet) though some USA states limit such capacity (for civilian use) to 10 or 15 rounds.

This article: What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns by Florida radiologist Heather Sher, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/what-i-saw-treating-the-victims-from-parkland-should-change-the-debate-on-guns/553937/, 22nd Feb 2018, details how much more damage the high-velocity AR-15 bullet causes to human bodies as compared to a bullet from a handgun.

Ravi: This may be why the AR-15 is a favoured rifle for those who want to kill as many people as they can in their mass shooting rampages.

But calls to ban AR-15 and assault rifles have attracted massive pushback from some quarters in the USA which include many in current USA Congress and the USA Presidency.

It strikes me that some of the most vociferous voices on social media and elsewhere in the USA in support of assault rifles would be from right-wing armed groups and their supporters/promoters! Take their assault rifles away and they become a much less potent force! The white nationalists who had gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, in Aug. last year, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unite_the_Right_rally, got worldwide prominence because of the assault rifles powered force that came along with them (to supposedly help in maintaining law and order). The police seem to have got outgunned by them and so seem to have got intimidated by them at times! If the armed group in the white nationalists gathering had only handguns, they surely would not have come into international media spotlight, and the police would have been able to dominate them.

Similarly if the Parkland school mass shooting killer had used only hand guns, perhaps he would have been effectively opposed by school teachers/staff or even school students as well as by hand gun armed school resource officers (police). It is the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle which is close to an assault rifle in capability that made the 19 year old killer so formidable to oppose and so effective in his killing spree.

I think it is appropriate to share with interested readers, this disturbing link with an around 10 minute embedded video and its transcript from PBS.org (of USA) dated April 2017 and titled, "Why armed militia groups are surging across the nation", https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/armed-militia-groups-surging-across-nation.

There is some debate about whether it is appropriate to refer to these armed right-wing groups in the USA as militia. I have read and viewed quite a few mainstream media reports where such groups (white nationalist type) in the USA today are referred to as militia. So in the rest of this post, I am going along with USA mainstream media's current usage of the term militia.

I would like to inform readers how I got into such topics. The 2007-08 USA (and global) financial crisis, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_crisis_of_2007%E2%80%932008, really jolted me. Prior to that I was in a retired from commercial work, happy small world of mine not really bothered about such matters like assault rifles and armed right-wing groups in the USA. It took perhaps a year or so after the 2007-08 USA (and global) financial crisis started getting prominence in international mainstream media, for me to get some understanding of what was going on in the USA but eventually I realized that it was a very scary thing. I realized that it could also impact my retirement financial arrangements if the crisis hit the Indian banking and insurance sectors like it hit the USA and Western Europe banking and insurance sectors. I was at the Sai university then and we had Visiting Faculty come from the USA to us on a regular basis (most of them being Indian origin). They talked about severe cuts in academic funding in the USA.

Then I decided to do some reading up and viewing up on what is going on. Perhaps I started doing this in some detail from sometime in 2009 which increased after I quit the Sai university in early 2012. There were some doomsayer finance guys e.g. Peter Schiff, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Schiff, who talked about Austrian school of economics and had dire predictions, followed by advice on how to survive that period! If I recall correctly, it was at that time that I also came across videos of the armed groups in the USA who claimed to prepare for survival! I think that's when I came across them being referred to as militias.

I found it hard to understand what I was seeing in these videos as my life in India had been such that armed groups outside of the government forces were typically illegal rebels who were being hunted by the govt. forces, and people like me would keep as far away from such armed rebel groups as possible. Even in my over three years totally stints in USA, Western Europe and South Korea, I had not personally encountered such armed 'militia' groups which are independent of the government. They would have been there in some parts of the USA then too (second half of 1980s and early 1990s) but I had not come across them. I had read about Ku Klux Klan in some parts of the USA but I thought it was a spent force then.

The USA is different from India in that these armed civilian groups in USA were able to legally have their assault rifles and claim to do some paramilitary type exercises.

I think it is the assault weapons that are being freely sold in the USA, and some of which goes to these armed 'militia' groups, which is the most worrying thing for people like me. I mean, I am very uncomfortable knowing that some such citizenry in the USA have this kind of awesome firepower, and which citizenry seems to hate non-white people and also white people who they view and label as 'lefties'/'socialists'/'communists'.

Now I certainly do not support any armed criminals in the USA who use such guns to inflict violence on innocent people. But then the USA police forces are tasked with tackling the armed criminals and the police forces are accountable to the government leaders. It is different in the case of armed 'militia' groups in the USA who are independent of the government and not answerable to the government.

Not a happy state of affairs in the USA, IMHO. I can only pray to God that those USA citizens and armed groups which are independent of the government, whether they are right-wing or left-wing or whatever, who own such assault rifles, use it only for defensive purposes and do not use it to terrify and kill innocent people.

[I thank merriam-webster.com, nytimes.com and usatoday.com, and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above small extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever. Please note that this post attempts to help in tackling a social problem.]

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