This morning, on the 15th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City mass murder, I drove from Washington, D.C. across the 14th Street Bridge to get on the George Washington Memorial Parkway and attend an "open carry" gun rally at Fort Hunt, Virginia.
On my way, I passed the Holocaust Museum, where a deluded Neo-Nazi, in a final act of vengeance for having been born, chose to spray bullets into the flesh and bone of a security guard whose only crime was trying to earn a paycheck. Off in the distance, you could almost see the Pentagon, where John Patrick Bedell wreaked havoc after being declared mentally unfit to possess a firearm by the state of California--because he simply bought one with no questions asked at a Nevada gun show. Bedell took advantage of the gun-show loophole to shoot those serving our country at the Pentagon, because of his hatred for it.
Finally, we arrived at Fort Hunt, to see a bevy of mostly middle-aged white men compare the United States of America to Nazi Germany, the Ku Klux Klan and a slave-state (among other niceties) while carrying assault weapons and dressing like they were auditioning for the remake of Red Dawn. A highlighted speaker was Mike Vanderboegh (seen in the video above), an Alabama militia leader who most infamously encouraged his followers to throw bricks through the windows of local Democratic Parties.
In a very different reality, Tom Mauser, whose son was gunned down in the Columbine massacre, and families of those murdered at Virginia Tech, today called on our leaders to lead on an issue where 86% of gun owners (including 69% of NRA members) agree with the rest of us, according to known liberal Frank Luntz: That we MUST close the gun show loophole. We must do more to stop criminals, terrorists and the mentally unfit from getting their hands on weapons that kill.
To protesters at the Fort Hunt rally, the federal government, a health care bill and their personal interpretation of the Constitution are reasons for everyone to be armed and ready to do battle (although, interestingly, during the Bush Administration's assault on the Constitution with the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, turning Gitmo into, well, Gitmo, rendition, etc., we didn't hear much from this crowd). Losing an election is just another justification for political violence.
To the victims of gun violence, who realize we aren't living in some Wyatt Earp fantasy land, perhaps getting guns out of the hands of those who fetishize violence and commit crimes and terrorist acts is just a tad bit more important. This likely includes some of those paranoid souls listening to the speakers at the Fort Hunt rally, perhaps planning to be the next one to shoot someone at the Pentagon or fly an airplane into an IRS building.
Which world do you live in on the 15th anniversary of an American tragedy? And which one do you want to live in?
Disclosure: I consulted for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) on this project