For some reason Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner and governor wannabe, felt compelled to hold a press conference last week to boast about the number of concealed-carry weapons license holders in the state. That number will top 1 million this week, doubling in just five years.
The millionth permit will be handed out the same week that we will witness the memorial service for the 27 victims, 20 of them children no older than 7, of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in this country’s history. The act was perpetrated with America’s most common, most worshipped and most protected weapon of mass destruction: the firearm.
Putnam just showed us how common and protected it is and to what lengths politicians go to enable the arsenal of terrorism. This is one of the ways you make a name for yourself as a politician in Florida: You brandish your gun fetishism and praise its disciples. It is also what lays bare this state’s — this country’s — infantile attitude about guns, whose prevalence (300 million firearms in circulation in the United States) is inversely proportionate to mockeries that pass for gun regulation.
Floridians, Putnam wanted us to know in triumphant language as he described what he called the “success” of the program, are pulling these permits at the fastest pace in the nation. “Only” 7,244 licenses have been revoked in the 25-year history of Florida’s concealed-carry program, he said. Only 7,244 licenses were awarded people who abused them or shouldn’t have had them.
Here’s a less triumphal look behind that “only.” Florida has the 15th-highest homicide rate in the nation, with guns accounting for the overwhelming majority of the killings. Duval County alone, which will end the year with more than 100 homicides, has more murders by firearm in a year than in all of Britain, a nation of 63 million. Florida also has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, thanks to firearms, which accounted for 64 percent of the carnage in 2011 (according to Florida’s Vital Statistics Annual Report).
Florida, whose enabling laws go as far as concealing the identity of conceal-carry permit holders, shares the rest of the South’s lethal romance for guns, where trigger-happy gun laws concentrate the nation’s gun violence. But it’s a national disease amplified by a national obsession that doesn’t hesitate to lock and load the words “gun” and “hobby” in the same chamber while vilifying those who’d imply a connection with the consequences: Ten times as many Americans die of firearms, each year, as did in the 9/11 terrorist attack.
We have a number of gun epidemics in this country. Mass murder is merely the worst of them. Those mass murders — the movie theater massacre in Aurora, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the factory in Minneapolis, the mall in Oregon, just this year — do not happen except with guns. And it’s the guns — the guns, not the men wielding them — that make massacres on that scale possible, refuting one of the most cynically idiotic one-liners of the gun fetishist: that people, not guns, kill.
Another miserable one-liner seeks to segregate the problem to law-breaking nut-cases while absolving all law-abiding gun owners, though most killings, including Newtown, are enabled by legally obtained guns. And even as guns claim a life every 20 minutes in this country, state and federal governments continue to let National Rifle Association propaganda derail sensible discussions about guns, let alone sensible gun regulations. As Putnam’s spectacle illustrated so mindlessly, no other civilized country has the variety of laws that treat guns as entitlements.
That epidemic would not be sustainable without the social and political accomplices of a violent, weapons-solve-all mentality. Nor would it be sustainable without the weapons-worshiping apologists who hide behind Second Amendment dogmas while America’s soft-core terrorism, as apple pie as the munitions next door, kills on.
Pierre Tristam is editor and publisher of FlaglerLive.com, a non-profit news service based in Palm Coast, Fl. He can be reached at email@example.com