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The Soft-Core Terrorism
Of Florida’s Gun Worship

| December 16, 2012

Edel Rodriguez’s immediately iconic illustration to a column in the New York Times Sunday.

For some reason Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner and governor wannabe, felt compelled to hold a press conference last week to boast about the number of concealed-carry weapons license holders in the state. That number will top 1 million this week, doubling in just five years.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive The millionth permit will be handed out the same week that we will witness the memorial service for the 27 victims, 20 of them children no older than 7, of the Newtown school massacre, one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in this country’s history. The act was perpetrated with America’s most common, most worshipped and most protected weapon of mass destruction: the firearm.

Putnam just showed us how common and protected it is, and to what lengths politicians go to enable the arsenal of terrorism. This is one of the ways you make a name for yourself as a politician in Florida: you brandish your gun fetishism and praise its disciples. It is also what lays bare this state’s—this country’s—infantile attitude about guns, whose prevalence (300 million firearms in circulation in the United States) is inversely proportionate to mockeries that pass for gun regulation.

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Floridians, Putnam wanted us to know in triumphalist language as he described what he called the “success” of the program, are pulling these permits at the fastest pace in the nation. He brought a chart with him showing the graph line of permits zooming up. I’m glad the line was drawn in red, though I doubt Putnam got the irony, particularly in light of the language he used. “Only” 7,244 licenses have been revoked in the 25-year history of Florida’s concealed-carry program, he said. Only 7,244 licenses were awarded people who abused them or shouldn’t have had them.

Here’s a less triumphal look behind that “only.” Florida has the 15th-highest homicide rate in the nation, with guns accounting for the overwhelming majority of the killings. Duval County alone, which will end the year with more than 100 homicides, has more murders by firearm in a year than in all of Britain, a nation of 63 million. Florida also has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, thanks to firearms, which accounted for 64 percent of the carnage in 2011 (according to Florida’s Vital Statistics Annual Report).

Florida, whose enabling laws go as far as concealing the identity of conceal-carry permit holders, is part of the South’s lethal romance for guns, where trigger-happy gun laws concentrate the nation’s gun violence. But it’s a national disease amplified by a national obsession that doesn’t hesitate to lock and load the words “gun” and “hobby” in the same chamber while vilifying those who’d imply a connection with the consequences: Ten times as many Americans die of firearms, each year, as did on 9/11.

We have a number of gun epidemics in this country. Mass murder is merely the worst of them. Those mass murders—the movie theater massacre in Aurora, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the factory in Minneapolis, the mall in Oregon, just this year—do not happen except with guns. And it’s the guns—the guns, not the men wielding them—that make massacres on that scale possible, refuting one of the most cynically idiotic one-liners of the gun fetishist: that people, not guns, kill.

Another miserable one-liner seeks to segregate the problem to law-breaking nut-cases while absolving all law-abiding gun owners, though most killings, including Newtown, are enabled by legally obtained guns. And even as guns claim a life every 20 minutes in this country, state and federal governments continue to let National Rifle Association propaganda derail sensible discussions about guns, let alone sensible gun regulations. As Putnam’s spectacle illustrated so mindlessly, no other civilized country has the variety of laws that treat guns as entitlements.

Or the variety of alternately vile, absurd or survivalist arguments debilitating most discussions about guns. I still sympathize with Edward Abbey’s argument that “the tank, the B-52, the fighter-bomber, the state-controlled police and military are the weapons of dictatorship,” but not that “the rifle is the weapon of democracy.” He’s right to be suspicious of any government that would deny guns to its citizens. But that’s never been the issue here, not even down the imaginary slippery slopes of NRA fantasist. The issue is strict regulation in proportion to the lethality of the objects in question. Firearms have one function, and one function only: to kill. You can dress it up all you like as hunting or target practice or testosterone therapy. It doesn’t change a firearm’s purpose. As Nicholas Kristof notes, ladders, which kill 300 people a year, are more regulated than firearms, while it’s harder to adopt a pet than buy a gun.

On the absurdist side, there’s the invented claim that liberals who’d never tolerate limits on the First Amendment would dance on the grave of the Second. Put aside the fact that slander and libel laws, speech codes, regulations and corporate controls would actually be an excellent model for the way to treat the Second: the fact remains that a word has never killed. Ever. In all of recorded history. And never will. A gun will kill sometime in the minutes before and after you read this piece. The First Amendment is overregulated. The Second is the one dancing on the graves of its victims.

And on the vile side, there’s the insult to humanity we hear after every school massacre: that such things wouldn’t happen if prayer hadn’t been taken out of schools. It is of course an outright lie that prayer has been taken out of school: no child, no individual, is ever denied the right to pray or worship in school. Yet the suggestion that prayer can in any way affect these outcomes is deranged. Perhaps the victims of Hiroshima, Rwanda, 9/11 and Auschwitz should have prayed a little harder, too? If that’s the case—and if anyone can still say that after learning of the manner in which Adam Lanza executed the 6- and 7-year-old children at Sandy Hook Elementary, shooting some of them up to 11 times at point-blank range in his little holocaust—then for god’s own sake, I hope he doesn’t exist, because if it takes praying to such a god to avert these tragedies, it is god himself who deserves the first bullet.

But an epidemic depends on a rich and resilient virus to live on, and gun worship is among the best of them, tallying up a death count in the United States at twice the rate of AIDS. It would make a graphic addition to Putnam’s little chart. That epidemic would not be sustainable without the social and political accomplices of a violent, weapons-solve-all mentality. Nor would it be sustainable without the weapons-worshiping apologists who hide behind Second Amendment dogmas while America’s soft-core terrorism, as apple pie as the munitions next door, kills on.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter. This column is also syndicated through Florida Voices.

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63 Responses for “The Soft-Core Terrorism
Of Florida’s Gun Worship”

  1. Dadgum says:

    BRW says:
    December 17, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    The answer to free speech is more speech less we stick our head back in the sand.


  2. Karma says:

    Shouldn’t we have abortion control also? You know how many kids just like the ones killed will never have a chance to live. A murder by a gun is bad and crushing a child’s head in the womb is OK. Funny how the same people value life.


  3. JustMytThoughts says:

    Every American has the right to bare arms for the purpose of self-defense, a tyrannical government, and tyranny. Our forefathers were extremely wise people. Over the last ten years our constitution has been stripped of many of our rights. I’m sorry so many people die on a yearly basis from gun violence. I wept with the nation over all those children dying. In Flagler many of our schools have armed police. Instead of taking away our right to bare arms, maybe we should consider arming up. It’s a huge deterrent. I believe there are more good people than bad. This is the world we live in. I blame all the gun control laws for what’s happening. People have a right to protect themselves at work, school, and anywhere else. Criminals, and crazy people as a rule generally don’t follow gun control laws. If those teachers, administrators, and staff would have been armed, it would have been a different outcome.
    Just my opinion.

    The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

    As far as the comments regarding God. He’s not a dictator, and doesn’t interfere with free will. You would know that if you’d bothered to study the bible. Instead you hurl accusations against something you know nothing about. As if God were to blame for this. Really?


  4. patty says:

    1. “People who want to kill will kill” but having so many assault weapons so easily available makes it easy to kill many at one go.
    2. Armed with a baseball bat or knife Adam Lanza could have been more easily subdued and would not have been able to cause so much carnage and massacre so many innocent babies. Logic therefore says that automatic weapons are a worse tool for killing.
    3. The knife wielding guy in China was not able to cause as much damage and NOBODY died
    4. In Britain, in the wake of the Hungerford massacre, Britain introduced new legislation — Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 — making registration mandatory for owning shotguns and banning semi-automatic and pump-action weapons. Gun carnage immediately went down.
    5. In one of his first acts as leader, Prime Minister John Howard announced major reforms to Australia’s gun control laws just 12 days after 35 people died at the hands of a lone gunman wielding a military-style semi-automatic rifle at a popular tourist spot in Tasmania on April 28, 1996. Again, almost 100% decline in gun deaths.
    6. Following 9/11, for the sake of safety we have meekly given up our right to privacy and allow ourselves to be stripped near naked at airports without a murmur but for the safety of our children and our population we are not willing to give up on dangerous automatic weapons quoting (incorrectly) second amendment rights. If we stick to the spirit of that amendment we should only be allowed to own/carry muskets!
    7. For the record, I have been handling guns since I was 6 years old but only under the supervision of my parents at that time. So now I consider myself a gun lover and owner but not an unreasonable one and do not see any need for protection or sport to own an assault weapon.
    8. What I consider unreasonable is people insisting that they have a right to own assault weapons and multiple-round clips for protection. Against what? The bogey man? Why is there a need for civilians to own assault rifles? Do we really think we need to or can defend ourselves against the Government, the U.S. armed forces or by Government do we mean our local police force? If we mean the latter, than perhaps we are criminals who feel the need to defend against law enforcement.
    9. Some pseudo gun lovers have also suggested that the teachers at New Town should have been armed to defend and retaliate. Why stop at teachers? The little angels should each have been carrying a firearm for their own protection.

    Even if logic be damned, c’mon people, where are your hearts? If not now, then when? We need sensible gun policies.


  5. Whodat says:

    @ Patty
    Well said and if I may add Patty, in Israel citizens can own guns but are limited to only 50 bulits in a “lifetime”. This is somewhat similar to legisation Senator Feinstein of California is proposing. Gun sales this week alone are over $10 million and Bushmaster’s selling for over $1,000 per if you can get one. Are we expecting an invasion.


  6. Outsider says:

    Patty, you neglected to follow up on the results of the British and Australian gun bans. Find your own source, but you will crime went up, including rapes.


  7. Edward says:

    A handful of men with box cutters killed 3000 Americans. Should we ban box cutters or airplanes?? A truckfull of explosives and fertilizer killed hundreds. Should we ban fertilizer? Over 30,000 people died in car crashes in 2010. Should we ban cars? What happened in CT was beyond despicable. It was the cowardly act of a boy whose own family says had mental issues. Yet it could have easily been stopped just as quick as it started had someone else possessed a firearm and blown that kid’s brains all over a wall and saved those children.

    I’m really glad all of you, like Pierre here, are so willing to give up the only thing which allows you to protect yourself against an armed aggressor. If, and God forbid it actually happens, you who would make guns illegal find themselves staring down the barrel of a bad guy’s pistol (because there’s no way criminals would be so stupid as to surrender their own arms), you’ll go out wishing you had one too.

    Don’t know if Pierre brought it up or not, but Switzerland REQUIRES every household to possess a gun and be trained in its use. Yet they aren’t slaughtering themselves. Each year, millions of hunters here in America take to the woods with some powerful weapons, but there’s no mass murder (of hunters). Gun responsibility needs to be taught. Guns are not evil, they are inanimate objects. Anything can be used to kill someone if the person knows how to use it. A t-shirt, a sock, a knife, a gun, all can be used to kill.

    Last point: These guns were granted to us by our Forefathers not just as a means of protection against criminals, and not just as a means of hunting and gaining food. These weapons are meant to be the People’s protection against our own government. A final line in the sand when all else (legislation, judiciary) have failed. The Right of the People to keep and bear arms shall NOT be infringed. This is necessary to the security of a free State.


  8. Tango says:

    You mention the English crime rate, yet there is no mention of the fact that British Crime rate was already a fraction of the US rate even before their first gun bans were enacted, nor any mention of the horrific inaccuracies that fill their so-called “record” books which have been examined by news agencies on both sides of the Atlantic.

    You state “Ten times as many Americans die of firearms, each year, as did on 9/11″. While including suicides and criminals killed by police and armed citizens is factually correct, it is disingenuous. And while suicide may be made easier by having a gun, the suicide numbers from Japan (that dwarf ours on a per/100k measure) as well as the creative and unusual methods they have invented to shrug off this mortal coil show that limiting access to guns will not reduce the numbers, just make those with intent work harder.

    You mention “the movie theater massacre in Aurora, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the factory in Minneapolis, the mall in Oregon”, yet fail to mention that all of them were posted as “gun free zones”.

    You also specifically omit that the shooting in the Clackamas Town Center mall – according to Portland’s KGW news – was stopped by a concealed carry holder before it went any further. You also omit the score of shootings that were stopped by law abiding citizens with guns that could be found with less than a minute of internet search.

    Of course, that doesn’t promote your agenda, so why include it? That whole “journalistic neutrality” concept is so outdated…

    I’m sorry that Florida and other states “conceal the identity of conceal-carry permit holders” so “noble minded journalists” like yourself cannot publish the names and addresses of permit holders – in the name of public interest. It must be incredibly frustrating for you to not be able to “out” those that don’t support your agenda while hiding behind PO boxes and unlisted phone numbers in your personal lives.

    I also find it ironic that you mention Rwanda when they are a wonderful example of the controls you would see enacted here. Decree-Law No. 12, 1979 required gun owners to register themselves as well as their guns and ammunition. It went further as time went by to insist that owners must justify need, outlawing concealable guns and allowing the government to confiscating them.

    Look where they are now – in mass graves defenseless against machete wielding mobs. 500,000 – maybe 1,000,000 – dead. Thank goodness they didn’t have guns.

    It seems to many of your ilk there is more nobility in victimhood than in the ability to defend one’s self, yet you label our side “vile” and “absurd”.

    Speaking of that victimhood, another thing that is glaringly omitted from your diatribe is whom exactly is responsible for the failure to protect all those victims.

    Here’s a clue – it’s not the government.

    Since South v Maryland in 1856, and in a score of cases since, the courts have held that the government bears no affirmative duty to protect the individual except in certain particular instances – attending school is not among them. People have tried to sue the government and been rebuffed, even when the government knew there was a credible threat before the attack took place.

    Where did the court lay that burden? Upon our own shoulders.

    So how do we address this? Do we give up our means of self-defense in a noble experiment to elevate mankind above our primitive urges? The punch line of the social worker and the light bulb comes to mind, specifically the “want to change” part. Just as we cannot hasten our progress towards being more noble-minded or altruistic, we cannot legislate our advancement through disarmament or any other means. All we would be doing at that point is allowing those that exhibit the lowest denominator of behavior an unfettered avenue to continue their practice.

    Which in a roundabout fashion brings up your comment “Firearms have one function, and one function only: to kill”.

    I would counter that it depends on the firearm in question but you are generally correct.

    Many of mankind’s greatest technological advances have been in the means of killing one another – clubs, knives, swords, axes, spears, arrows, gunpowder, cannon, muskets, rifles, handguns.

    We’ve been improving our lethality since we first started using tools, and if another means that is more efficient and user-friendly as firearms is invented, I’ll take advantage of that as well.

    But for today? I choose a firearm.


    As the “old west” saw goes, “G-d didn’t make man equal, Colonel Colt did”. There’s no guarantee my potential assailant is someone I could overpower, nor is there a guarantee they’re in the right mental state to discuss things. And one does not meet a lethal force incident without an adequate response. Tasers don’t always work, and pepper spray not only takes several second – if it works at all – but it contaminates the entire area, and people train to fight through it.

    Once a human has shown behavior that indicates enough of a threat of death or great bodily harm to another, the time for discussion and identification is over, as they have shown a willingness to abandon the Rousseauian social contract that allows us to interact politely and we have now jumped into Hobbes’ natural existence.

    So while I’m not eager about it, if it comes time to use a firearm, then the time for any sort of rational discussion or appeal to logic (like most anti-gunners favor) is out the window.

    In that moment I want to be able to eliminate any threat or threats to me or my family’s safety as quickly as possible.

    No discussion.

    No consideration of “feelings”.

    No contemplation of “societal pre-conditioning”, “institutional denial of opportunity” or any other psycho-social bullsh*t excuses for criminality.

    In the words of Captain Caveman “It’s clobberin’ time”.

    At that point all I want is the most amount of STOPITRIGHTTHEF*CKNOW to the bad guy for the buck, as well as any buddies he brought with him. And just so the record is correct, I don’t care what color a criminal is. I find it ironic that the first dart thrown by urban intellectuals who dismiss guns is “racism” – they obviously have never worked the same districts I have where the majority of shooters and victims share demographics.

    I don’t want to engage in a bare knuckles fistfight with a crackhead who can’t feel pain just because you think I can’t be trusted with a gun.

    I don’t want my wife to try to get up close and personal with a criminal who is bigger or heavier than her because it makes you or anyone else who chooses not to own a gun “feel better”, much less leave our children defenseless or motherless after she fails, and I don’t care if you wish to impugn my intelligence, genetic composition or sexual organ size.

    I don’t want to run out of ammo when I’m trying to stop multiple attackers because someone in Washington who doesn’t even like guns chose an arbitrary number of rounds as “all I needed”.

    G-d forbid the situation presents itself for any of us. Having been there I hope I never have cause to be again. That said, if you want to get into a scrap with a home intruder feel free.

    I want to be able to eliminate the threat to me or my family’s safety in the fastest, easiest way possible, and right now? That way is a firearm.


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