A headline on today’s New York Times blares:
Sales of Guns Soar in U.S. as Nation Weighs Tougher Limits
(Well, the Times‘ trumpet blares through a mute.)
Here’s some of the scariest bits, in Michael Cooper’s article — a piece that’s pretty frightening throughout:
High-capacity magazines, which some state and federal officials want to ban or restrict, were selling briskly across the country: one Iowa dealer said that 30-round magazines were fetching five times what they sold for just weeks ago.
Gun dealers and buyers alike said that the rapid growth in gun sales — which began climbing significantly after President Obama’s re-election and soared after the Dec. 14 shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., prompted him to call for new gun laws — shows little sign of abating.
The day after the Sandy Hook shooting, I started stumbling upon news of surging gun sales, and found it startling — especially to learn that Connecticut was among the states where gun-sellers were running out of AR-15 rifles, of the kind used by murderer Adam Lanza, and large-capacity magazines.
But, in retrospect, the response was predictable.
Since the election of our nation’s first African American president, right-wing leaders have played on the twisted guilt-and-projection continuum that plagues the more racist elements of the white, male cohort to convince them that the black man was coming for their guns (leaving to their fertile imaginations what he might do to their women).
Here’s Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, addressing the so-called Second Amendment Rally at the Washington Monument on April 19, 2010, the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 Americans:
We’re in a war. The other side knows they’re at war, because they started it. They’re comin’ for our freedom, for our money, for our kids, for our property. They’re comin’ for everything because they’re a bunch of socialists.
And, whoa, are some of those imaginations fertile indeed! A veritable mix of manure and composted grey matter. Just look at the growing trend of “Sandy Hook truthers” — people who contend the massacre never happened, but was just a narrative ruse invented by government in collusion with the news media, all so Obama might disarm his enemies and have his way with America.
Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald dares to explore the truthers’ claims:
In the latest angle, theorists think they have found “absolute proof” of a conspiracy to defraud the American people. “You reported in December that this little girl had been killed,” a reader emailed Salon in response to a story. “She has been found, and photographed with President Obama.”
The girl in question is Emilie Parker, a 6-year-old who was shot multiple times and killed at Sandy Hook. But for conspiracy theorists, the tears her family shed at her funeral, the moving eulogy from Utah’s governor, and the entire shooting spree are fake. Welcome to the world where Sandy Hook didn’t really happen.
The crux of the theory is a photograph of Parker’s sister sitting on President Obama’s lap when he visited with the victims’ families. The girl is wearing the same dress Emilie wore in a pre-shooting photograph of the family shared with media, so she must be Emilie, alive and well. “BAM! I cannot believe how idiot these people are [sic]… That’s her,” one YouTuber exclaims as he watches the two images superimposed on each other. (Apparently missed by these crack investigators is the possibility that the sister wore Emilie’s dress and that they look alike because they are sisters, after all.)
This is not to say that all of those in a state of panic, stocking up on assault rifles and large-capacity magazines, are massacre-deniers. Some obviously just have a burning need for military-style weapons and oodles of rapid-fire ammo. (Go figure.)
And not every person in the gun-store stampede is motivated by race, of course. Many of these folks have long been suspicious of the intentions of liberals and/or Democrats for decades, flames of fear fanned by the likes of the John Birch Society and religious right.
But add to that paranoia the toxic brew of America’s failure to accept the brutality of its racist past and the reality of its race-fixated present, and there’s much to give pause in this current stream of events.