Something seems to happen to some celebrities as they reach the point where they should be transitioning gracefully into their golden years. Instead of evolving into fonts of wisdom, they begin to recount the past through self-serving fictions – as beloved gun-porn actor Samuel Jackson is now doing.
The 66-year-old’s ridiculous recollections of a peaceful and heavily armed South are now being cited as fact by firearms enthusiasts seeking to damp calls for greater gun control. They’ve turned them into a meme to muddy the discussion about the pressing need for a ban on assault rifles and large magazines.
It’s based on remarks Mr. Jackson made after the horrendous mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. That’s the shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which a mentally unbalanced young boy (below right) murdered 26 people. Most of them children. Adam Lanza, then 20, also killed his mom and himself.
“I don’t think (the solution is) more gun control,” Mr. Jackson told The Los Angeles Times shortly after the massacre. “I grew up in the South with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.”
The claim is self-serving nonsense at best by a popular actor who has grown rich in roles glorifying gun violence. It’s a knowing lie at worst in a nation where the pace of mass shootings is rising and the South traditionally has posted the highest per-capita murder rate.
Technical innovation has made it possible for lone gumen to kill ever larger numbers of their fellow Americans with the newest products from the firearms industry. At the same time, the industry itself has jumped the shark by embracing the ridiculous idea that more weapons in schools and workplaces will prevent future atrocities because “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
The painful truths obscured by Jackson’s remarks are that modern firearms kill more in a shorter period of time, with less reloading. That’s why today’s civilian shootings produce the same kind of body counts as terrorist attacks.
There were an astounding 255 mass shootings in the U.S. in 246 days as of Sept. 6, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, It defines a mass shooting as an event in which four or more people are shot.
The past five years have given us a steady drumbeat of horrific murder sprees, which include the 28 people killed by Lanza; the six people killed and 13 injured by Jared Lee Loughner in Tuscon Arizona in January 2011; and the 12 people killed and 70 wounded by James Eagan Holmes in Aurora, Colo., in July 2012.
By comparison, only 12 people were killed by eight terrorists in the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre.
The Sandy Hook shooter acted alone.
His weapon of choice?
A civilian variant of the M-16 military assault rifle called the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle (right). It’s made by Bushmaster Firearms International of Madison, North Carolina.
Holmes’ weapon of choice was a Smith & Wesson MP15, which is yet another civilian version of the M-16. Loughner used a 9mm Gock semi-automatic pistol, originally designed for use by the Austrian police and military. He purchased the weapon from a Sportsman’s Warehouse store the night before the attack.
All three firearms are sold over the counter in this nation. Just like pretzels and Legos.
The ease and speed of firearms acquisition leaves little time for personal reflection or intervention by friends and family members.
All three of the young men in the case cited above had serious mental issues for some time before the attacks.
Words really matter to crazy people. When you combine an unhinged mind with volatile rhetoric and easy access to military style firearms the result is the carnage we see on ours streets today.
In many ways, the ridiculous rhetoric of the current gun control debate is reminiscent of the nonsense that poisoned the public discussion about abortion 20 years ago. You either have to be for all firearms of every stripe or completely against them now, much as you once had to be for or against abortion in the heyday of Operation Rescue and its founder Randall Terry.
There was no in-between, no respectful exchange of ideas by fellow Americans and no compromise. No room for a world in which people regretted having abortions, but still opted to have them. Just as there is no room today for a world where some firearms are easy to obtain, but access to the most profitable and lethal military style assault rifles is curtailed.
In the absence of compromise, the religious nuts of Operation Rescue and the Catholic Church forced women to run the gauntlet of the so-called “faithful” outside abortion clinics in the 1990s.
Their idea of an intelligent discussion was having their kids scream “baby killer” at these women in a highly charged “us versus them” political environment. Much as members of Open Carry Texas feel the need to take their assault rifles with them when they go shopping at Wal-Mart today and to intimidate anyone who questions such provocative behavior.
Their posturing nonsense is Operation Rescue all over again.
I know because I covered Operation Rescue back in the day, when it was blocking abortion clinics in Florida’s Treasure Coast.
I have two lasting memories from the experience. The first was Operation Rescue Founder Randall Terry singing and playing the piano inside some church shortly before I interviewed him in 1992 for the Fort Pierce News Tribune. The bible school graduate was good – clearly a frustrated professional entertainer. Not a hobbyist.
Afterward, Terry told me he supported the concept of a “just war.” Meaning that the faithful could kill those who thought differently.
Presbyterian minister Paul Jennings Hill put that philosophy into action two years later outside a Pensacola abortion clinic. He attacked Dr. John Britton and his volunteer bodyguards Lt. Col James Barrett (USAF retired) and June Barrett with a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun.
Meaning that the bespectacled Hill blew used buckshot to blow whole chunks of flesh off their bodies after he snuck up on them like a coward. Buckshot shells typically contain nine to 12 bullets sized projectiles each. The men were killed. June Barrett was wounded but survived.
The lone assassin’s actions and thinking were eerily similar to those of today’s Islamic extremists.
The second memory occurred outside one of the Treasure Coast clinics, where hundreds of Operation Rescue protesters were doing their thing.
I’ve covered loads of protests. The run-up to these media events is almost always the same, whether the marchers are liberal or conservative.
They’re almost never the spontaneous reactions they’re appear to be on TV.
First, there’s a long period of staging when the cops, protesters and media mingle peacefully as they get sorted out. This involves standing in lines to buy coffee and sandwiches from the same vendors and finding convenient parking in the same area.
Amazingly, the conspiracy nuts at Operation Rescue set up some Hispster-looking kid with camera gear and fake press credentials at this clinic blockades. Then had the young fella hang with the press. Presumably to capture our “mythical” liberal bias.
What he got instead was a long discussion about beer, pizza, asshole editors, and Florida football. Once we realized the kid was a plant we verbally abused him until he left in shame. Making the long walk alone across a grassy field back to the Operation Rescue staging area.
It was a pivotal event event in his young life. Just another assignment for the ink-stained wretches.
However, I don’t any of us were quite as neutral afterward. Reporters who would have thought nothing of strolling over for an interview before the plant was unmasked, avoided the operation Rescue area afterward.
The point of all this is that once you remove the possibility for compromise and peaceful disagreement, you remove something very American from these ideological showdowns. Needlessly transforming those who don’t echo your thoughts into enemies.
And that is very much not The American Way.
Today, the crowd seeking to slow the rate of abortions has redirected their energy and resources into a laudable campaign that relies on the power of peaceful persuasion. Instead of intimidation and hectoring.
Billboard advertisements and the like encourage women to think twice before choosing an abortion – as is their right. They’re much more successful because of that mature approach.
Abortions per thousand women, ages 16 to 44, fell from from 26 in 1992 to 16 in 2013. A 39 percent decline. And the only thing that changed was the type of tactics being employed by abortion foes, which went from didactic to persuasive.
We need to do the same thing for the current firearms debate, which is needlessly polarizing. Once we do I think we’ll find that both sides can live with a world in which wheel-guns, pump shotguns and bolt action files are legal, but weapons more easily converted to full automatic mode are not.
Jackson’s fictional recollections of a peaceful and heavily armed South don’t help. They deter compassionate, empathetic and logical reasoning from entering the gun control debate by erroneously implying people have changed for the worse since his youth. Instead of firearms.
It’s pure smoke and mirrors.
An extension of the for-profit firearms industry’s “guns don’t kill people” mantra, which exists solely to give them a free ride as they push ever more expensive and more deadly firearms.
The industry never lets painful truths get in the way of profit growth. Same goes for Samuel Jackson.
Like the inconvenient facts that our nation’s per capita homicide rate has actually dropped in recent years and that the South consistently has been its most murderous region. Firearms have long been used to settle arguments there. Right back to the days of the legendary feud between Hatfields and McCoys, and the bank robberies by Jessie and Frank James and Bonnie and Clyde.
Not to mention the routine attacks on “saucy” black men, like Samuel Jackson, by heavily armed white mobs during the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan.
In short, the rosy version of life in the Old South Mr. Jackson remembers is largely fictitious.
Death Penalty Information Center data shows that the South has a choke-hold on the highest per-capita murder rate in the United States. And not by a little (see charts at right).
The Death Penalty Information Center data also shows that our national per capita murder rate is actually down quite a bit since 1970, when Samuel Jackson was 21.
Sadly, I couldn’t find any older data. But these pesky facts are enough to convince me that Jackson is remembering what he wants to remember in the here and now. Rather than the violent and heavily armed South he actually inhabited back in the day. It was so great that Jackson became an active participant in the Black Power movement in his youth in a bid to change things.
Mr. Jackson is seeing things differently now that he’s wearing the rose-colored glasses of a beneficiary of the status quo. Especially one who has made a tidy living in hyper-violent flicks like Pulp Fiction. He’s gotten rich glorifying violence and is now trying to frame the mass killings his lucrative roles helped inspire in a way that’s most advantageous to him personally.
Sorry Mr. Jackson, but that crap won’t fly here at The Cynical Times.
Because we don’t do benefits without burdens. That sort of thing is strictly the province of the 1 Percent.
The problem isn’t that people have changed, but that firearms have been made more lethal and efficient by technological advances, and industry groups have become more adept at preventing intelligent discussions about such issues in the public forum. The fact that we’re even discussing this subject at all is a testament to the ability of the NRA and firearms industry to push their self-serving misinformation.
The painful truth is that a crazy man with a civilian version of the M-16 can do a lot more damage than the same person with a traditional wheel-gun. And firearms are no longer the defense against tyranny they once were in a world that fights via missile- equipped drones and the like. Unless you fancy the idea of bringing the modern equivalent of a knife to a gunfight.
In short, our society has all the negatives of poorly regulated firearms ownership right now and almost none of the positives.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to shoot and as long as firearms are legal I’m going to go to the range with my friends and bust some caps. But we’d all be a lot safer in a world without assault rifles and extended magazines, where madmen could only hurt people with revolvers, pump shotguns, and bolt action rifles.
That’s the compromise we should be pursuing.
Hunters could still hunt in such a world and folks could still defend their homes and property – unless the Russian Army is making off with Grandma’s china. But these mass killings would be damped. As would firearms industry revenues.
The really sad part of all this is that protecting and growing those revenues are what this needless political fracas is really all about for the publicly traded firearms makers, like Smith & Wesson and Sturm Ruger. Their CEOs have a legal obligation – called a fiduciary duty – to grow their corporate profits by any means necessary. Fair and unfair.
If that means peddling cutting edge military tech to overweight civilian wannabees playing “Dress Up GI Joe” in the Open Carry Texas movement, then that’s what they’re going to do. Even if it leads to more Sandy Hooks.
The sad part is that American men need these assault rifles about as much as American woman need to be heroin chic and squeeze themselves into size zero dresses. Both are artificial and unhealthy needs built almost entirely via ruthless marketing.
To summarize, I’m not against firearms. I’m against anything that carries more than six shots and can be modified to rapidly fire them off. Because we don’t need it for home defense and we don’t need it for our theoretical battle against potential tyranny. Especially in a nation in which the same foreign interests that run Wall Street now control Congress.
If you need more convincing, I can offer you this remark from the 6-year-old girl who was the sole survivor of those who sought refuge in the Sandy Hook bathroom where the carnage was worst. She survived by playing dead in a room filled with the bullet-ravaged carcasses of her classmates.
When the child reached her mother afterward, she said, “Mommy, I’m okay, but all my friends are dead.” The child described the shooter as “a very angry man.”
It’s hard to believe that we can’t do any better than this for our 6-year-olds.
While we’re on the subject of firearms I also want to say that I reported way too many stories about kids who shot themselves and their playmates with daddy’s gun during my days on the cops and courts beat. It gets really friggin old, really friggin quick.
If you can’t find a safe place to stash your firearm, don’t own one. It’s not a fashion accessory.
No matter what crazy ideas the greedy sonsabitches of the firearms industry and useful idiots like Samuel Jackson try to inject you with.