I almost wish that Twitter and Facebook hadn’t scrubbed Vester Lee Flanagan’s snuff video. Maybe it should be required viewing. If everyone could see what premeditated murder actually looks like, what the thunderous rasp of a Glock sounds like, what the terrified face of a victim looks like in the moment before her existence is summarily ended – then maybe we would all finally wake up from our gun-crazy national nightmare.
Because, seriously, this wasn’t a video game. This wasn’t Tom Cruise doing bang bang at the multiplex. These were two real people – Alison Parker and Adam Ward – who were denied the right to live their lives, to pursue careers, to have spouses and kids. Maybe, just maybe, that snuff video would spark a renewed national resolve to confront the everyday horrors of our so-called Well-Regulated Militia.
Nah. That wouldn’t happen.
We’re the gun murder capital of the western world. It’s baked into our culture, it’s the sick side of American exceptionalism. Bobby Jindal, the presidential nonentity, said it well a few years ago when he boasted that “all across America, we love us some guns.” What we do is, we stand idly by and tally the ever-growing list of innocent dead, then we send thoughts ‘n prayers and a bunch of balloons, then we rinse and repeat. It’s like what I wrote a month ago, after some movie-goers got blown away in Lafayette, Louisiana: “soon enough another Second Amendment nutcase will come along to impose his Freedom.”
It’s also a waste of time to list the latest verbal idiocies uttered by the gun-friendly politicians. We’ve heard them all before, although, for comical incoherence, nothing beats what Chris Christie just said on CBNC: “I’m more scared of criminals than I am of guns.”
But the thing is, Vester Lee Flanagan didn’t have a criminal record. He did, however, possess a couple guns. According to news reports, he bought them legally.
Of course he did. Because in this country – and especially in a state like Virginia – the emphasis is on easy access.
In Virginia, the only way you’ll get turned down for a gun buy is if you have a criminal history, an acquittal by reason of insanity, or if you’ve been “adjudicated legally incompetent or mentally incapacitated or involuntarily committed.” (That quote is from the NRA’s description of Virginia law.) Flanagan didn’t fall into those categories. He had merely scared the living bejeezus out of his colleagues at the Virginia TV station, to the point that when he was fired, some of the staff took cover behind a locked door until police arrived to toss him out. And in a civil suit, there was paperwork from TV station management about his potentially violent nature.
But hey, this is America – which has 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but roughly 50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns – and unlike virtually everywhere else in the western world, a self-described “human powder keg” is deemed to be a perfectly eligible customer. According to international statistics, America has six times more gun homicides than Canada, 15 times more gun homicides than Germany, and 30 times more gun homicides than Australia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guns kill roughly 33,000 Americans each year (incuding suicides and accidents); if ISIS or al Qaeda were to kill even a fraction of that number on American soil each year, we’d be going berserk.
But stats will never sway the unswayable. Heck, if 20 dead children in Sandy Hook couldn’t move the needle, a few live-TV murders certainly won’t. Nothing can kill our frontier spirit.
How telling it was, yesterday, when the USA cable network announced that it was postponing the season finale of Mr. Robot by one week. By all accounts, there’s a faux-violent scene that looks a tad too similar to the Virginia shootings. But fear not, it will be shown next Wednesday, because by then, as we know all too well, benumbed America will have moved on. And the on-air screams of the reporter – her last breaths – will have begun to fade from memory. This is our national shame.