America: Armed and dangerous


SANTA CRUZ, January 20, 2014 — Earlier this week, a man was shot to death inside a Florida movie theater after an altercation over texting during the film. Despite how inconsiderate and selfish it is to use one’s phone during a movie, nobody ought to be shot to death over it.

The incident illustrates a national epidemic of gun violence, long overdue for a serious, countrywide discussion. The fact that you are an inconsiderate moron if you pull out your phone for any reason in a theater once the film has begun should get you removed from the establishment, not murdered.

The NRA and libertarians enjoy pontificating about Americans’ right to bear arms, guaranteed in the second amendment of the constitution. They hold it close to their hearts as a cherished liberty. Many point to a fairy tale world wherein evil doers are forever lurking outside their homes, waiting for the chance to steal their riding mowers and DVRs full of Homey Boo Boo reruns.

These Americans are ruled by a curious paranoia, one which humans are not born with, but rather taught through flawed parenting combined with a steady diet of right wing media hysteria. Christian fundamentalists have recreated a zeitgeist of mistrust, fear, and veiled bigotry. In this fantasy world of manufactured evil, Americans are urged to arm themselves to protect themselves and their families. Before long, people are seeing enemies everywhere, including, apparently, at the local cinema.

While it would be naive to believe that we live in a world devoid of danger, these right wing alarmists have taken normal human caution, or street smarts, and morphed them into a psychotic culture which would cause the most out of touch survivalist cringe.

American homes are now filled with weapons and ammunition, often within reach of children, which serve no purpose other than to heighten the danger that someone will die or be seriously hurt as the result of an accident.

Over 100,000 people are shot every year in the United Sates. This breaks down to around 289 per day. Between 2000 and 2010, more Americans died from guns in the U.S. than the entire populations of St. Louis, Mo, Pittsburgh, PA or Newark, NJ. The death toll from the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn. in 2012 is equaled or surpassed every three days in America.

The statistics can become a blur, numbing the reader to the tragic realities of America’s insane love affair with guns. Whatever symbolic steps the  country is taking to improve things, they are clearly deficient.

While paranoid fantasies of home defense are a favorite tactic of the NRA and pro-gun lobby, there are countless others who believe gun ownership makes them a sportsman (or woman). Massive companies like Bass Pro Shops spend money to promote the idyllic myth of weapons and ammunition as a proud, American way to bond as a family. Children are taught that the systematic murder of innocent animals is a positive endeavor, an adventurous chapter in one’s coming of age, and a centerpiece of American adulthood.

It is time to call hunting exactly what it is: bullying with firearms. Shooting innocent animals does not make anyone a sportsman. Teaching one’s son or daughter how to do so does not make one a good parent. Even if one has the intestinal fortitude to skin, cook and eat what they have have murdered, humans have not had to depend on eating animas for thousands of years. How can one explain to their child that animal cruelty is wrong, or teach them about compassion, only to celebrate as victorious the slaughter or maiming of an animal which is no different than the family cat or dog.

Libertarians and gun advocates would have us believe we need guns to defend ourselves against a devious, tyrannical government, one bent on curbing our freedoms and liberties. In fact, it is Americans themselves, inexplicably obsessed with guns and their surrounding culture, who pose a greater threat to national safety and stability than anyone sitting in the oval office.

Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.

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Russ Rankin
Santa Cruz, California native Russ Rankin is the vocalist for the seminal California punk band Good Riddance, the hard rock band Only Crime as well as currently performing original songs as a solo artist. In 2007, Rankin turned his life-long passion for hockey into a job scouting California for WHL teams. Rankin is a dedicated vegan, an avid animal rights advocate, a political activist and has been a regular columnist for AMP Magazine and New Noise Magazine, as well as contributing to Alternative Press, Razorcake and others.
  • Clinton Anderson

    The one thing you left out about the theater shooting was the very important fact that the shooter was a Retired Police Officer that can carry his gun in all 50 states by Federal Law. All the gun laws that were proposed last year would not have prevented this shooting. I live in the real world and have seen the evil that men do. I wish we lived in a country where guns weren’t needed, I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t need a standing military, but the fact of the matter is we don’t live in that country or that world. You talk about the murder of animals. Are you a Vegan? Do you eat meat from the store? Because those animals are murdered as well.

  • Kathleen Flaherty

    I find it unbelievable you target “Right Wing Extremists” and “Christians” who push paranoia so the state can take away individual rights to own a gun if you are a law abiding citizen. The states that have the strictest gun controls have the highest crime rates. States should crack down on criminals and the mentally ill who should be profiled, not the citizen who wants to protect themselves from criminals. You can be killed with a knife, bat, stick, fists and so on and are you going to ban them.?

    What about the “Flash Mobs of Teens” in the movie theater here recently? Oh, how about the “Knockout Game” where defenseless older citizens are being attacked and Brutally Beaten to Death? If I or my family is attacked that viciously by those criminals, you are darn right I will shoot to protect my family. Let’s see how you do unarmed? If you want to live in Communist China move, I will buy you a plane ticket.

  • Tanya Grimsley

    I believe in the 2nd Amendment and will only ever use my firearm when needed. Mother of two boys who have no access it. It’s in the parenting and/or the individual. I don’t believe all gun owners fall in the same category. We should not have to pay the price of those who use them in criminal activity. Just my thoughts.

  • kurlis

    A single incident of violence does not constitute an epidemic. Perhaps you should rephrase that sentence. It doesn’t make sense.

  • kurlis

    Russia, Mexico and Venezuela have stringent gun control. How’s that working out?

  • kurlis

    You don’t seem very tolerant of cultures other than your own. Does that make you a bigot, Mr. Rankin?

  • S. M. Allen

    Utterly clueless! Stick to singing and leave the important stuff to people that don’t need a nanny state.

  • Andrew Criston Ragsdale

    Really?? This person needs a reality check. While I agree the animals are ‘innocent’, how do they think ‘food’ was acquired in the passed? I hope they’re vegan and don’t shop for meat in Wal-Mart or Food Lion. If they do, then they’re also promoting ‘murder’. The deer shot in the woods and used for food is actually healthier anyway… Why would you not want to eat healthier food?? As long as man has been around, we have found ways to attack/kill each other. Weapons have always been used, rather it be our hands, or a device that propels hot pieces of metal at incredible speeds (Guns). If guns were to go away (for the record they will never go away) that would only decrease the amount of ‘gun violence’. While it would be difficult, people would still hunt animals and murder would still take place. What’s next after they would take away guns?? Potential victim: “Well, now that guns are gone, what is the most popular item people are using to kill each other? We need to ban it now as well” I bet people don’t realize that the same day as the Newtown shooting, a guy in China used a knife to stab 26 people to death before he was stopped. Guns are not the problem, people are the problem. We, as humans, are naturally violent beings and will always come up with new ways to kill each other. Example: If I don’t have a gun, I could use a bow-n-arrow, a chair, a knife, a pen, this could go on all they way down to what’s attached to our bodies.. our hands and feet. Since we are violent beings, it’s only right that we have the chance to defend ourselves. While every time you walk out of your door, the threat of someone being there to harm you is low; however, the threat is still there and for you to not want to have a edge over someone who could potentially cause harm to you or loved ones makes you stupid and proves that you live in a dream world. *Disclaimer* I would only use my knowledge and skills for self-defense purposes.

  • Jim Purcell


    like this are the dangerous ones. He cannot grasp what rights are.
    There is no trading or changing of rights. That makes them government
    approved privileges that would disappear on a whim. He’d
    turn his over along with his children’s for that totally misguided and
    dangerous concept that government will dictate what his rights are. That
    is lunacy on every level. Sounds like Goebbels and his rants.Clue: more
    people are killed in auto accidents despite ever increasing safety
    standards. The tired argument that they are not designed as weapons (and
    are not protected by the Bill of Rights) doesn’t hold water when you
    look at the numbers. And he does not see the dangerous actions of an
    overbearing government acting outside of that oath sworn? Misguided is a
    very weak term to use here. No thanks. My rights are non-negotiable and to borrow from a very famous ludicrous statement ‘PERIOD!’. .Only my statement is honest.

  • John Swetland

    Just incredible thought here. What color is the sky in your world?? How ironic that you are using your 1st amendment Right of free speech, yet you feel the 2nd Amendment is unsavory for some reason. Just a WEE BIT of historical research will tell you that 100’s of millions of unarmed citizens have been killed by their own government. How dare you wallow in your Unearned Moral Superiority and dream to subject American citizens to ANY potential of a similar fate!!

    Your 1st Amendment Right to blather on about some Utopian dream you have for the real world is something we must tolerate. But let me be VERY clear: Terrible people’s ideas have killed many many many more innocents that good people with a firearm on their hip.

    Waiting for your ban on cars that kill, forks that make people fat and the health care system that kills far more people annually. Life is tough kid….deal with it.

  • Laura Sesana

    Russ, great piece. Love reading a difference voice here!

  • Jim Bozeman

    Oh…my…dear…Lord! Russ, do you ride a unicorn and live on moonbeams? You’ve lost your lucidity, my friend.