In this web-exclusive video essay posted the day after the deadly shooting in Aurora, Colo., Bill says that the event was yet another tragic indication that our society — and too many of our politicians — covet guns more than common sense or life itself. The National Rifle Association in particular, Bill says, “has turned the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a cruel and deadly hoax.”
BILL MOYERS: You might think Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President of and spokesman for the mighty American gun lobby, The National Rifle Association, has an almost cosmic sense of timing. In 2007, at the NRA’s annual convention in St. Louis, he warned the crowd that, "Today, there is not one firearm owner whose freedom is secure."
Two days later, a young man opened fire on the campus of Virginia Tech, killing 32 students, staff and teachers. Just last week LaPierre showed up at the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty here in New York and spoke out against what he called "Anti-freedom policies that disregard American citizens’ right to self-defense."
Now at least 12 are dead in Aurora, Colorado, gunned down by a mad man at a showing of the new Batman movie filled with make-believe violence. One of the guns the shooter used was an AK-47 type assault weapon that was banned in 1994. The National Rifle Association saw to it that the ban expired in 2004. The NRA is the best friend a killer’s instinct ever had.
Obviously, LaPierre’s timing isn’t cosmic, just coincidental; as Shakespeare famously wrote, “The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” In other words, people. People with guns. There are an estimated 300 million guns in the United States, one in four adult Americans owns at least one and most of them are men. The British newspaper The Guardian, reminds us that over the last 30 years, "The number of states with a law that automatically approves licenses to carry concealed weapons provided an applicant clears a criminal background check has risen from eight to 38."
Every year there are 30,000 gun deaths and 300,000 gun-related assaults in the U.S. Firearm violence may cost our country as much as $100 billion a year. Toys are regulated with greater care and safety concerns than guns.
So why do we always act so surprised? Violence is alter ego, wired into our Stone Age brains, so intrinsic its toxic eruptions no longer shock, except momentarily when we hear of a mass shooting like this latest in Colorado. But this, too, will pass and the nation of the short attention span quickly finds the next thing to divert us from the hard realities of America in 2012.
We are after all a country which began with the forced subjugation into slavery of millions of Africans and the reliance on arms against Native Americans for its Westward expansion. In truth, more settlers traveling the Oregon Trail died from accidental, self-inflicted gunshots wounds than from Indian attacks – we were not only bloodthirsty, we were also inept.
Nonetheless, we have become so gun loving, so blasé about home-grown violence that in my lifetime alone, far more Americans have been casualties of domestic gunfire than have died in all our wars combined. In Arizona last year, just days after the Gabby Giffords shooting, sales of the weapon used in the slaughter – a 9-millimeter Glock semi-automatic pistol – doubled.
We are fooling ourselves. That the law could allow even an inflamed lunatic to easily acquire murderous weapons and not expect murderous consequences. Fooling ourselves that the second amendment’s guarantee of a "well-regulated militia" be construed as a God-given right to purchase and own just about any weapon of destruction you like. That’s a license for murder and mayhem and it’s a great fraud that has entered our history.
There’s a video of which I’d like to remind you. You can see it on YouTube. In it, Adam Gadahn, an American born member of al Qaeda, the first U.S. citizen charged with treason since 1952, urges terrorists to carry out attacks on the United States. Right before your eyes he says: "America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, and most likely, without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?"
The killer in Colorado waited only for an opportunity, and there you have it -- the arsenal of democracy transformed into the arsenal of death and the NRA -- the NRA is the enabler of death -- paranoid, delusional, and as venomous as a scorpion. With the weak-kneed acquiescence of our politicians, the National Rifle Association has turned the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a cruel hoax, a cruel and deadly hoax. I'm Bill Moyers.