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Hunting, guns, and the American nightmare
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Recent tragic events in the American landscape illustrate that the unraveling of the economy and the loss of jobs and savings have brought an attendant horror of mass murder and revolting violence. 

In Alabama, New York and Pennsylvania the sickening tableau of laid-off workers or someone struggling with the difficulty of making a living or simply viewing their lives as threatened with failure - coupled with the powerful allure of firearms as the ultimate weapon of problem solving - has left families and communities reeling with grief and shock at the unimaginable loss of loved ones. 

The dead include police officers, immigrants receiving aid in English instruction, and elderly infirm patients in a nursing home, some suffering from Alzheimer's disease.  In the latter case those patients already suffering from the terror of the dissolution of their identity were further terrorized by a gunman who then took his own life. 

For those immigrants who had come to America with such high hopes for their futures, what must the survivors think of their adopted country now? 

A more important question is: What do we who are born and raised here think of the country we have become?

The wanton nature of the violence speaks for itself.  These were acts of depravity from individuals who were each desperate or plain vicious in their own way.  Yet we must ask the tough questions of ourselves and the society we have fashioned and not dodge the larger issues because we recognize the acts and the actors as insane. 

At least one conclusion we can all agree on is that these men should not have had access to guns of any kind for any reason.  However, there is a thriving industry of lobbyists led by the National Rifle Association and other groups focused nearly exclusively on their sacrosanct vision of the Second Amendment that work to defeat any rational curb on the easy availability of firearms to any buyer that clears the minimal standards they have fought relentlessly to impose on the nation. 

Recently Wayne LaPierre, president of the NRA, attacked  the notion that the majority of weapons destabilizing Mexican society had origins in the U.S. He further warned of secret plans of our government to use the growing violence along our border as a ruse to clamp down on gun sales.

For the record, I am a hunter and gun owner.  Having spent considerable time with gun owners and fellow hunters, I have come in contact with a range of individuals, mostly men, who own weapons for a variety of reasons from those similar to myself who use guns mainly as tools for hunting, to some who like to collect older weapons for keepsakes or investments, and a decided minority who believe that a citizenry armed to the teeth with any weapon they choose is necessary to keep a dangerous government at bay. 

I have never subscribed to the last view, believing instead that an active and informed democracy is the best answer to an overbearing government. 

The suspicion that our government will confiscate our hunting rifles and shotguns is stupid beyond belief in my opinion. 
Who will come after our guns?  Surveys have overwhelmingly shown that both law enforcement and military personnel by huge majorities favor private gun ownership.  That leaves only those mythical individuals in black helicopters, that so far have not been found or identified, as the greatest threat to gun ownership.

The vast majority of gun owners I have known are responsible and safe in their handling of firearms.  I have never witnessed anybody threaten another person with a gun, and those few times an individual exhibited carelessness with a weapon it was brought to their attention by others present and the behavior stopped.  

Yet no amount of responsible gun owners can compensate for the violence being visited on America by the clearly deranged minority of gun nuts destroying lives and communities across the nation.

The recent tragic events raise disturbing questions as to what we the people are going to do with this monster we've created and allowed to grow to monstrous proportion in our midst. How many Columbines and Virginia Techs do we need to break the pathological grip of the gun lobby on the nation's throat?

The murder of three police officers in Pittsburgh displayed the result of the fear mongering of the NRA and their acolytes since the presidential election.  The gun lobby has fomented fear among their most ardent supporters that the Obama administration was planning to deploy a wide variety of bans on gun ownership from automatic weapons, semi-automatic assault rifles, and several types of ammunition commonly used by hunters. 

This past hunting season I ran into a friend in an outfitter store who was stacking several boxes of thirty caliber shells in his arms.  He explained that Obama was going to raise the price on this caliber to effectively make it impractical for hunters to purchase. 

I laughed at the time and said how amazing what with the melting of the world economy that he had the time to think of such a scheme.  It is no laughing matter. 

The gunman who murdered the police officers, armed with an assault rifle and an armored vest, used the very same rationale prior to killing those men.  Furthermore, many right-wing zealots like Chuck Norris and Glenn Beck are openly questioning how long "real Americans" are going to tolerate an Obama administration without resorting to an armed insurrection, a Second American Revolution.

I shudder to think where all this is heading.  So much of the fabric that united us in the past has become frayed by the unrelenting assault of special interest groups focusing on narrow issues that are used to hyper-inflate a stunted identity of who we are as a people. 

Those that seek so rabidly to alarm us must be confronted with the bitter fruit of their labors.  The murders of the three police officers represent nothing less than the ideological chickens of the radical right coming home to roost. 

The ranting of Beck and Norris and others found fertile ground in the sick mind of one who took their insinuations to his logical and depraved end.

Hunters need to realize that gun nuts are pure poison for our future.  Hunting is about much more than mere killing. For most of us hunting is all about connections. 

We get to know the animals we hunt and what they require to thrive.  We value their lives and the gifts they add to ours. 

The earliest hunters bequeathed a rich legacy of art and spirituality in the caves of France depicting the wildlife they hunted in stunning, elegant forms. It's abundantly clear they revered the life they took and felt a kinship with the spirit of the animals. 

Hunting was the font from which art and religion flowed.  In contrast, the violence we are witnessing springs from alienation and isolation, a desert of the heart.

As with the gun lobby and those they have deluded, our deeds also speak for themselves - only our deeds are a legacy to treasure and pass to future generations.  Hunters have done more to preserve habitat for wildlife, safeguard watersheds, impart a love of nature and yes, even the animals we kill than any other segment of the population. 

All the good we have accomplished is now at risk because of a radical few who hide among us and seek political cover in our ranks.  I believe we must state firmly that we do not need the likes of the gun lobby to defend hunters. 

Most importantly we must declare that we in no way share their vision of America which is grounded in paranoia and not patriotism.  The future they advocate where our grandchildren will attend church and school under arms is an abomination. 

If we continue to follow their lead the American dream will be a nightmare. 

 Jimmy Buttimer