Gun Violence and the Scarlet Letter “R”

Gun Rights

To the Editor:

It is 3:11 a.m. on Tuesday, April 11, 2023, and I can’t sleep. I
keep having the titles of articles on gun violence reverberate in my mind. There
are so many, and they are all compelling. Some have refrains of common songs of
our nation, such as “Gun Violence, when will we ever learn?” Others feature the
locations of mass shootings, such as at a “car wash” in Pennsylvania in 2018,
or a particular feature of the guns used, like learning about “bump stocks” in
the mass shooting on October 1, 2017, in Las Vegas when 58 were killed and
almost 500 injured in the deadliest shooting in our country so far. Some titles
could, of course, feature the type of gun: “AR-15s, the gun of choice in mass
shootings” (which the gun rights folks say are not assault rifles, just
sporting guns, or tactical rifles, whatever that means).

So yesterday, it was a mass killing in Louisville, Kentucky, in a
bank. The first thought of most: I hope it was not kids again, not nine-year-old
children again like in Nashville just a week or so ago, or six- or
seven-year-old children again, like in Sandy Hook in December 2012, when twenty
first graders were murdered along with seven adults. No, it was only five
adults killed this time, and eight reported injured including three officers,
as if that is a consolation.

Here are the simple facts of gun violence.

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The country known for gun violence everywhere around the world is
the United States—not Great Britain, or Canada, or Australia, but the United
States. We have more than twenty-five times the mass shootings and gun violence
of those similar nations. We’ve had 377 school shootings since Columbine in
1999 (Washington Post) and we still
offer only “thoughts and prayers.” So far this year we’ve had 11,628 killed by
guns, including 146 mass shootings. So far this year 71 children aged 0-11 were
killed and 403 teens aged 12-17 were killed by guns (Gun Violence Archives). We
still, as a country, offer only “thoughts and prayers.” Leading the world in
gun violence is embarrassing, humiliating and shameful.

The political party supporting gun violence is the Republican
Party, the party with a scarlet letter “R” after their name. The votes that
such legislators make repeatedly, in any state (including our New Hampshire
Republican legislators and Governor, or in Tennessee, for example) or
nationally in Washington D.C., are always to keep things basically unchanged,
or even worse, make guns easier to acquire and carry. They offer only “thoughts
and prayers,” nothing more. In Tennessee they even expel legislators who are
crying, pleading to do something to end this scourge of gun violence, along
with thousands in the streets of Nashville crying, pleading for actions, not
words. The political party with legislators who have a scarlet letter “R” after
their name do everything in their power to keep things unchanged or worse, and
to keep the epidemic of gun violence growing, with guns unfettered, gun
violence undeterred.

These are some of the headlines in my mind, some of the
horrendous thoughts that are keeping me awake night after night, as gun
violence surges through the schools, banks, factories, churches, streets of our
nation. It is now 4:49 a.m. and I still can’t sleep. When will we ever learn?

Leonard Korn, MD

New Castle, N.H.

Leonard:

After a quick glance at
your letter, we guessed you might be an emergency room doctor. A few years
spent patching people back together—sometimes successfully, sometimes not—would
certainly explain your views on gun violence.

As so often happens,
though, we were wrong. WebMD tells us, “Board Certified in General Psychiatry
since 1977, and Board Certified in Forensic Psychiatry from 1999-2009 … [since]
2003 Dr. Korn has served on the Executive Council of the New Hampshire
Psychiatric Society, including serving as President from 2007-2011. He is also
a member of the Executive Council of the New Hampshire Medical Society. Dr.
Korn’s clinical practice includes all ages and the full range of psychiatric
disorders. He sees children, adolescents, adults, couples and families. His
specialty is Forensic Psychiatry.”

Of course, a few years
spent—a few decades, in your case—patching people’s minds back together could
also explain your views on gun violence.

When you get right down to
it, anyone who spends any time at all considering the effect that guns have had
on so many Americans might say your letter speaks for them.

In fact, you do speak for
most Americans, according to a slew of public opinion polls going back for decades.
The thing is, that doesn’t matter.

Bear with us for a moment,
because our blood is up. We want to try, once again, to explain why that is so.

It has long been our
idiotic national practice to award an election to anyone—even a certifiable
dingbat like Marjorie Taylor Greene or Paul Gosart—who gets one more vote than
the next person, no matter if they might be the reincarnation of George
Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

This practice has the
inevitable result of boxing us into a two-party system. Proponents of ranked
choice voting [RCV] can explain that better than we can. Check it out.

For the time being, we’re
stuck with Rs and Ds. The Ds, as we all know, are strong on hand-wringing and
fecklessness. Meanwhile the Rs are, as Yeats wrote, “full of passionate
intensity.”

Not towards democracy,
though. Some of them are now stating openly what many of us have long suspected:
they’re just not that into it. So the people want gun control—so what? It
doesn’t matter what the people want. Who are they, compared to the
free-spending, Russian-funded NRA?

Thanks to a forty year
campaign of gerrymandering and naming nutjobs to the courts, we now have more
mass shootings than days of the year.

Here’s the tl/dr: RVC might
be the key to effective gun control.

The Editor

–=≈=–

Our Celebrity Governor

To the Editor:

Our esteemed New Hampshire Governor has really been making the
rounds!

It seems every week there is a news clip highlighting Governor
Sununu appearing for an interview, chatting with another talking head about how
the Governor is really popular, re-elected by overwhelming majorities, and
isn’t afraid to call bull___t when it happens in N.H. or D.C.

Aren’t we lucky? He could probably use his special powers and
insights to… oh, maybe figure out how to help reduce the property tax burden
for us regular folks? Or, maybe, really make all those education funds work for
average kids all around the state? Or, maybe, use his leadership to figure out
a meaningful way to address out-of-control Second Amendment enthusiasts’ anxiety…
so the rest of us can live in peace? Or, maybe, work hard to find a realistic
solution to waste disposal and landfill planning? Or, plan to solve affordable
housing shortages?

Nahhh; not gonna happen. There’s talking heads to talk to, NRA
gabfests to attend, deals to work with special forces from SigSauer to back
their flagship “experience” store; maybe some other donors… er “constituents”
to let tourism flourish atop Mt Washington. So much to do when you’re so
popular!

God Bless the Granite State. And hopefully help the Granite
Staters, too.

Sincerely,

Beth McCarthy

Tamworth, N.H.

Beth:

Didn’t you hear what Governor
Glib said on April 5th? “So I’m not saying I’m not running again, but, you
know. I’ve got to get a real job. It is not a career, right?”

He’s neglected all those
issues you mentioned because he’s bored up there in the Corner Office. Having
pranced around on our little stage all these years, he’s ready for his D.C.
close-up—or thinks he is.

Why hasn’t he announced?
Because doing so would draw fire from the Major Domo of Mar-a-Lardo? Maybe he’s
waiting for the courts to clear the field.

The Editor

–=≈=–

Pass the Smelling Salts, Please

To the Editor:

Despite knowing there would be objections, some “educators”
brought pornography into K-12 school classrooms and libraries without public
approval, notice, debate, or justification. When discovered, caring parents and
citizens object and demand removal of these materials from schools.

Verifying their inappropriateness for schools, some school boards
have prevented parents from reading these explicit materials in public meetings
(e.g., https://tinyurl.com/3vacn8jy).
If materials can’t be read in public meetings, then that material is not
appropriate for school classrooms or libraries. (For more detailed information
of what schools offer young children: https://tinyurl.com/3h9udd7a).

Nevertheless, some people call demands to remove pornography, not
from them but, from schools, “book banning,” à la “Nazi (National Socialist) Germany.”

The people screaming “book banning” surely know that age-based
restrictions are appropriate; surely they oppose letting young children buy
guns and cigarettes, or drive cars. “Banning” is unlikely to be their real
concern. I don’t recall them complaining that the Bible and Ten Commandments
are banned from schools (has that improved our society?), when students were
prevented from handing out U.S. Constitutions, or when teachers were fired for
praying on school grounds. I suspect interfering with their harmful ideological
goals is their concern.

Unfortunately, too many teachers can’t adequately teach reading
or math; why would any parent or rational person trust them to introduce
pornography to children, some of whom already struggle with various aspects of
growing up, and are vulnerable to exploitation?

Sadly, many children, one estimate is 361-500 annually, are
sexually exploited by school employees (https://tinyurl.com/2p89at3y).
Sharing pornography with children is a way to confuse children about sex and
gender and enable their exploitation by adults. This might benefit deviant and
predatory adults, but I don’t understand how it benefits children, parents, or
society.

Don Ewing

Meredith, N.H.

Don:

You cite a story which was
posted on Alpha News. The Minnesota
Star Tribune wrote, on March 10, 2015: “The launch of Alpha News was first promoted
today by the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance on Facebook. Many of the initial news
stories from Alpha News cover issues which have been advocated by the Minnesota
Tea Party Alliance.”

The Star Tribune noted that “[Alpha News Chief Capitol
reporter Julia] Erynn…served as Miss Minneapolis 2014…a self-described
Libertarian, [she] also served as the Emcee of the 2014 Libertarian Party of
Minnesota Convention. In a podcast last year for the Minnesota Tea Party
Alliance, Erynn discussed the career advice she received from journalist Ben
Swann and her interest in focusing on ‘journalism that calls out other
journalists.’”

The story itself carries a
Daily Caller byline. That site was co-founded by Tucker Carlson, recently shown
by court documents to be an inveterate liar, and his college roommate, Neil
Patel. Patel had previously served as chief policy advisor to Vice President
Dick “Dick” Cheney, who lied us into a war.

So, all in all it’s no
surprise that Alpha News and the Daily Caller would be up in arms over all
this.

Jonathan Evison is the
author of
Lawn Boy, one of the books involved
in this fracas. He said in a statement to the
Washington Post, quoted by Wikipedia, “that he had received
numerous death threats, and many instances of harassment as a result of the
controversy. He said that, ‘contrary to allegations circulating online, the
book does not describe or contain pedophilia. The scene people seem to be upset
about involves an adult man recalling a sexual encounter he had with another
fourth-grader when he was in fourth grade. If I had a statement, it would be: ‘Read
the book or sit down.’”

The other book which was so
successful at getting conservative knickers in a twist was
Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe. A graphic memoir “centered
on coming out to friends and family,” according to NPR. “In illustrated panels
in the book, readers learn about Kobabe feeling physically different from a
young age but unable to openly express it. The book has been praised in some
circles for how it talks about identity….” For its honesty, it has been “banned
from shelves in more states than any other book.”

May we suggest, Don: if
you’re really concerned about protecting children, try Googling this: “List of
Convicted Republican Pedophiles.” Or maybe “Clergymen Convicted of Pedophilia.”

The Editor

–=≈=–

“The Greatest Generation”

To the Editor:

Hey, thanks so very much (as we used to say) for putting quotes
around the two words “Greatest Generation” in the 3rd column of your “From Our
Mobile Bureau” piece in the March 24th issue. I want to vomit every time that I
see/hear those two words in our stupid media. Tom Brokaw’s book made him a
hero. Obviously he has never heard about the Revolutionary War Generation or
the War of 1812 generation—the one in which Washington was burned—or the
Rebellion of 1861-5 (renamed Civil War afterwards) generation.

J.K. Folmar I

California, Pa.

J.K.:

Maybe we’re prejudiced, but
we think more highly of generations that did not send 2.9 million of its children
to fight Commies in Vietnam.

The Editor

–=≈=–

Let’s Not Scapegoat the Victims, Here

Dear Editor:

I could not avoid a keen interest in one of your more recent
rants, that of March 24th, the Armed Services missing their 2022 recruitment
goals. You stated “the Navy met its recruitment goals—by lowering its admission
standards.”

No doubt true enough, but think not this is a first time
practice. The military (as well as the rest of this country) has been lessening
its standards for decades, since at least the early 1970’s when Affirmative
Action and Equal Opportunity were introduced into our culture and thus began
the loss of expertise and the beginning of the end of American exceptionalism.

Granted (and well understood) there is an enormous amount of
discrimination exercised in America; always has been, perhaps always will be. But
you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong without spawning severe
and detrimental consequences.

Long story short, who could have imagined that a well-intended
but ill-conceived plan to level the playing field for citizens perceived as
“disadvantaged” would (a half-century down the road) give birth to a Donald
Trump. That someone like him would emerge with an imposing following and all
the while brazenly declaring, “I love the uneducated,” would not have seemed
remotely logical 50 years ago.

However, in retrospect, how easily those dots connect. A most
difficult lesson to master as evidence surrounds us proving we’re relentlessly
committed to the pursuit of mediocrity and so deep into perpetuating our
downward spiral I fear it can never be reversed.

I served the Navy as a recruiter, based in Claremont, New Hampshire,
in 1977-78. I was responsible for nine high schools in Vermont, my counterpart
nine in N.H. In recruiting school our instructor clearly avowed, “do not
recruit anyone you would not personally serve with,” and followed that up with
a wink and a smile and “if you don’t make your quota you’ll go back to sea,”
(which, in fact, became my destiny). Our station repeatedly proved too big for
one recruiter, too small for two. There are always reasons to lower
expectations.

I, and many others, tried to explain why modifying, decreasing
and dropping well-established standards, principles and guidelines was a bad
idea and doomed to failure but our pleas fell on deaf ears, closed minds and
hardened hearts. I watched good Naval officers reprimanded and forced to
apologize for simply voicing legitimate opposition to popular claims favoring
some vague quest of social equity because they believed it compromised our
mission.

It cannot escape even the most casual observer, the government of
the United States is dysfunctional, our institutions are in a state of
disrepair and unhealthy, our democracy, our form of representative government
and system of checks and balances are at risk and near collapse.

We have a family restaurant in the small town where I live which
no longer uses pennies, nickels and dimes because the wait staff has trouble
making change… and it’s not unusual to see four to six school buses from our
county, or neighboring counties, outside our cinema on a school day.

In my opinion, we need to reverse course, raise across the board
standards, and increase our expectations and I mean right now or we’re going to
lose our republic.

Or, as Tom Nichols, Professor of National Security Affairs at the
U.S. Naval War College, succinctly phrases, “We no longer have principled and
informed arguments. The foundation knowledge of the average American is now so
low that it crashed through the floor of uninformed, passed misinformed on the
way down, and is now plummeting to aggressively wrong.”

David L. Snell

Franklin, N.C.

David:

You’re right, of course This
is certainly not the first time the Department of Defense has lowered its
standards.

Most infamously, Secretary
of Defense Robert Strange McNamara instituted “Project 100,000” in October,
1966. That name proved to be misleading. Eventually, some 320,000 men who
scored between the 10th and 30th percentile range in the Armed Forces
Qualification Test were inducted. The program’s informal designation,
“McNamara’s Morons,” hewed closer to the truth. According to Hamilton Gregory,
author of the book
McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low-IQ Troops in the
Vietnam War, “inductees of the project
died at triple the rate of other Americans serving in Vietnam and following
their service had lower incomes and higher rates of divorce than their
non-veteran counterparts.” [Wikipedia.]

If we read you correctly,
though, you seem to be pinning the decline of Western Civilization on Affirmative
Action and Equal Opportunity. There are a couple of things we’d like to say
about that.

We will readily grant that Earth
in general, and the U.S. of A. in particular, are ride-sharing in a broken-down
handbasket headed straight for hell—and accelerating at an alarming rate.

Far more worthy of blame,
though, than Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, we would argue, are
neoliberal economic policies—tax breaks for the rich, austerity for everyone
else—and capitalism in general. From a capitalist point of view, the sale of an
AR-15 to homocidal maniac, the hospital bills of the wounded, and the funeral
expenses of the dead, all go towards building up that ultimate good, the Gross
Domestic Product.

What was so wrong about
Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity anyway?

Surely, after 246 years of
chattel slavery and nearly a century of Jim Crow, this country was under an
obligation to do something by way of reparation. Let us not forget that
capitalists have spent lavishly for half a century, paying their in-house
propagandists to relentlessly denigrate and falsely malign those programs.

Nichols is correct in his
assessment, but let’s put the blame where it belongs. If one-fifth of the
Pentagon’s budget over the past half-century had been devoted instead to public
schools and public health, the country in which we’re trying to live would be a
radically different—and dramatically better—place.

The Editor

–=≈=–

Our Gun-Promoting Governor

Dear Editor:

Before leaving for Indiana to pay homage to the NRA and to
reinforce his “A” rating from them, Governor Sununu made one of the most
heartless and profoundly offensive statements regarding the epidemic of gun
violence in America. After two deadly gun violence attacks in Tennessee and
Kentucky, in which 11 people, including three children, were gunned down, and
the Portsmouth, N.H. schools were closed due to a threat from a man with an
AR-15 and other weapons to “shoot up” the High School, Mr. Sununu said these
threats represented “The new normal.”

There is nothing “new” or “normal” regarding the epidemic of gun
violence in America, and anyone who claims that this ongoing scourge is
“normal” or is “new” is detached from reality. A 2021 report by Time Magazine reported that going back
to 1982 there were 123 mass shooting incidents in which at least three people
were killed, not including the gunman. Since that report, 952 people have been
killed and 1,315 wounded.

Unfortunately, the only place on Earth where an unchecked
epidemic of gun violence could be considered “normal” would be in America,
where the NRA controls our gun policy. And in the face of this catastrophe the
response we get from Republicans is to flock to the NRA Convention to pledge
their support to oppose any reasonable, sane and constitutionally based gun
safety measures.

As a result of this political cowardice and paralysis, we will
continue to see more killings of babies in schools and people in stores, banks
and malls, simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And our Governor
calls this “normal.”

Rich DiPentima, LTC, USAFR, Ret.

Portsmouth, N.H.

Rich:

In a piece recently
published in the
Portsmouth Herald,
Portsmouth Mayor Declan McEachern wrote, “We also need to move away from a
recent trend in New Hampshire to eliminate any common-sense gun restrictions.
In 1991, Portsmouth banned guns in schools and other municipal buildings. I’ve yet to meet a person who wants guns in
schools but apparently they all run for the New Hampshire legislature
,
because they tried to preempt our ordinance in 2003 and again in 20111. We
continue to enforce it, believing the federal law gives us authority, but last
year our governor signed a law barring cities from enforcing any federal gun
law. We will keep our schools safe despite these laws, not because of them.”

From the podium at the NRA
Convention in Indiana, Sununu bragged that, in the face of President Biden’s
vow to control guns with executive orders, “We quickly passed a law in New
Hampshire that said, ‘You’re the federal government. We’re the states. We go
first. Federal government, shove it. We’re not doing it.’”

Sununu has his father’s
arrogance, which he tries to hide behind a veneer of folksiness. McEachern has
his father’s wit; it requires no dissimulation.

The Editor

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