Between the lack of action around police brutality, the threats to Roe v. Wade, increasing mass shootings, and the ever looming threat of climate catastrophe, desperation and despair have become the emotions of the day. Polling shows most Americans still care about these issues, but they’ve long lost faith in mainstream institutions and their capacity for change. It can be difficult to know how to respond in moments of crisis like these. Besides panicking, one traditional approach is what is called the “ladder of engagement,” which relies on a series of actions that increase in intensity over time to win over supporters and apply pressure to people in power. This usually begins with gathering petition signatures and holding educational events while gradually building the support and capacity to move towards rallies and eventually, though rarely, more confrontational protests like occupations.
Guns were a ubiquitous part of my childhood. My grandfather, who had been a master sergeant in the army, had a small arsenal in his house in Mechanic Falls, Maine. He gave me a 2020 bolt action Springfield rifle when I was 7. By the time I was 10, I had graduated to a Winchester lever action 30-30. I moved my way up the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Marksmanship Qualification Program, helped along by a summer camp where riflery was mandatory. Like many boys in rural America, I was fascinated by guns, although I disliked hunting. Two decades as a reporter in war zones, however, resulted in a deep aversion to weapons. I saw what they did to human bodies. I inherited my grandfather’s guns and gave them to my uncle.
Mass shootings happen with appalling regularity in the United States. It is bad enough that recent shootings took place in Atlanta, Boulder, and Indianapolis, but the horror is always followed by the same useless faux debates. Half the population wants to limit gun ownership, the other half doesn’t and continues a gun buying spree to prove their point. Politicians pretend to take action, victims are mourned, thoughts and prayers are uttered, and the cycle repeats itself with the next awful event. What very few people dare to discuss is how these acts are connected with U.S. history and with the state in its current form. This country exists as a result of genocides and terrorism. The indigenous inhabitants were attacked with wars and disease and the survivors were driven from their ancestral lands.
It is extremely easy in the United States to obtain guns, to find places to practice using them, and to find trainers willing to teach you to use them. There’s no need to have any contact with the U.S. military in order to dress and act as if you’re in the military, as many mass-shooters do, some of them waging their own delusional wars against immigrants or other groups. But it is remarkable that at least 36% of U.S. mass shooters (and quite possibly more) have in fact been trained by the U.S. military. It is equally remarkable that, although I’ve been updating and writing about this topic for years, it is virtually whited-out from U.S. media.
The tinder that could soon ignite widespread violent conflagrations throughout the United States lies ominously stacked around us. Millions of disenfranchised white Americans, who see no way out of their economic and social misery, struggling with an emotional void, are seething with rage against a corrupt ruling class and bankrupt liberal elite that presides over political stagnation and grotesque, mounting social inequality. Millions more alienated young men and women, also locked out of the economy and with no realistic prospect for advancement or integration
The spectre of the coronavirus pandemic in the US has darkened decidedly, with President Trump warning of a harrowing next few weeks from a surging disease death toll. Into the malevolent mix are reports of American citizens buying up firearms as if there is no tomorrow. In recent weeks, gun sales have hit record highs amid public fears of a breakdown in law and order. Most of the sales were among first-time buyers, according to reports. During March, before the government-ordered shutdown of businesses due to the coronavirus epidemic, mandatory FBI background checks showed a huge spike suggesting gun sales had gone through the roof. Some 3.7 million checks were carried out in that month alone, corresponding to individuals purchasing firearms. Bear in mind too that each individual can buy several guns under the same application.
On August 5, former President Obama released a powerful statement in response to the latest gun massacres in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton that left scores dead and wounded—including children who were shopping for school supplies at Walmart with their mothers, and with their families at the wonderful Gilroy Garlic Festival. He decried the madness of violence that has been fueled by Trump’s vile pronouncements and policies that help spread anti-immigrant and racist poison across the nation.
Walmart could suddenly become a whole lot less busy this back-to-school shopping season. The American Federation of Teachers, the nation's largest teachers union, is threatening to boycott the giant retailer if it continues to sell guns. The labor group also wants Walmart to stop making financial contributions to politicians who oppose gun control. "If Walmart continues to provide funding to lawmakers who are standing in the way of gun reform, teachers and students should reconsider doing their back-to-school shopping at your stores," AFT president Randi Weingarten wrote in an Aug. 7 letter to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon.
Following a pair of deadly mass shootings over the weekend, including one at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, a Walmart e-commerce category specialist, Thomas Marshall, posted two memos widely within the company, urging mass action by employees to pressure management to cease the sale of firearms. Now, Marshall claims he and one of his colleagues are unable to access their internal accounts. “Walmart has completely deactivated our access and accounts.
The proliferation of guns in American society is not only profitable for gun manufacturers, it fools the disempowered into fetishizing weapons as a guarantor of political agency. Guns buttress the myth of a rugged individualism that atomizes Americans, disdains organization and obliterates community, compounding powerlessness. Gun ownership in the United States, largely criminalized for poor people of color, is a potent tool of oppression. It does not protect us from tyranny. It is an instrument of tyranny.
'The biggest force pushing up gun ownership around the world is civilian ownership in the United States,' says author of new report. American citizens now own 40 per cent of all guns in the world - more than the next 25 top-ranked gun ownership countries combined - with the number only set to grow, according to new research. According to a decade-long survey released by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, not only do Americans own the highest number of guns per capita, but also between 2006 and 2017, US gun owners acquired some 122 million new guns. That represented more than half of the 207 million new civilian-owned firearms around the world during that time.
The cries of loss and anguish become public, at last. A million young people seize the truth: “Half of my seventh grade class was affected by gun violence. My own brother was shot in the head. I am tired of being asked to calm down and be quiet.” The stories went on and on, speaker after speaker. We marched for our lives this past Saturday. I was one of the thousands of people who endured a bitter cold morning in Chicago to be part of this emerging movement, this burst of anger, hope and healing. Violence in the United States of America is out of control. It has its claws around the lives of its own children. It’s a terrifying symptom . . . of a society built around fear, of a political structure devoted to war. Something has to change. The Chicago march was one of more than 800 marches throughout the U.S. and all across the world.
Last weekend the March For Our Lives mobilized half a million on the DC mall and a few hundred thousand more combined in dozens of cities across the US. Lyft donated a million free rides to marchers, and a long list of celebrity endorsers wrote checks and cut spots. Broadcast and cable media gave free plugs letting people know where local actions were, and how to donate online. Former president Obama, who scorned the young people in the streets after the police murder of Freddie Gray warmly praised the young protesters against gun violence in Florida as ‘leading the way for all of us.” It’s not hard to see the hand of the Democratic party behind the tens of millions in corporate contributions and free media accorded the March For Our Lives mobilization. 2018 is a midterm election year, and November is only seven months away.
Student journalists used media as a key tool for activism in the widespread social movements of the 1960s, journalism scholar Kaylene Dial Armstrong writes in her book “How Journalists Report Campus Unrest.” One notable student protest happened in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago. In the spring of 1968, student demonstrators occupied the administration building at Howard University, a historically black school in Washington to protest racial inequality. Starting on March 19, more than 1,000 students shut down administrative operations at the university until March 23. One of the lead organizers, Adrienne Manns, was the editor-in-chief of Howard’s student newspaper, The Hilltop. The Hilltop supported the protesters from the outset. “It is the responsibility of The Hilltop to present issues and suggest solutions,” read a front-page editorial on March 8, 1968, in the lead-up to the occupation.