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Don’t stick to your guns

Revolution’s in the air, 9 mm in my hand. No, those aren’t quite John Lennon’s peace-in lyrics. They belong to Wade Michael Page, writes Anirudh Bhattacharyya.

columns Updated: Aug 11, 2012 02:09 IST

Revolution’s in the air, 9 mm in my hand.

No, those aren’t quite John Lennon’s peace-in lyrics. They belong to Wade Michael Page, the white supremacist terrorist who gunned down six devotees at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin,on Sunday.

The weapon he used? A Springfield Armory XDM 9 mm handgun, which he had purchased a week earlier, with three 19-round ammunition magazines.

Those lines are from a song by Page’s band Definite Hate, which had albums like Violent Victory, that were promoted thus: ‘New Line Up, New Songs, Same Hate!’

Making music isn’t a crime, even if it’s Celine Dion. But someone somewhere should have realised Page wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders. Sample more of his creative outburst:

‘Gonna shoot your whole group downAnd send the others on the run’

There was a smoking gun right there before the first shot was fired.

Page belonged to Neo-Nazi hatecore bands like End Apathy and 13 Knots, and played with a bunch of others — Celtic Warrior, Intimidation One, Aggressive Force. Yet, he could saunter into a store, purchase a handgun, and 48 hours later collect it for his purpose.

You’d think background checks for gun buyers would be stricter just days after James Holmes slaughtered a dozen moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado. You’d wonder why a simple Google search wouldn’t turn up Page’s racist rants. Perhaps gun merchants and US officials are too cool to be caught visiting MySpace, where Page’s bands posted their videos.

Or even the Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina that granted Page a five-year licence in 2008 to buy weapons since that agency was ‘satisfied’ that Page was of “good moral character.” Perhaps the Sheriff was oblivious to Page’s demotion and subsequent discharge — in 1998 — from the US Armed Forces, or his allegiance to the skinhead, virulently anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant Hammerskin Nation.

Gun-related violence is a fact of life, and death, in North America. Ironically, this week Jared Loughner pleaded guilty to a rampage in Tucson, Arizona, in January 2011 that claimed six victims and seriously wounded others including then Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

In some US states, permit holders can conceal and carry handguns into places where you would be prohibited from lighting a cigarette. Perhaps America would get serious about dealing with its gun addiction if the triggers were coated with nicotine.

It’s such a politically sensitive issue that elected officials prefer policies that have the safety catch off. For Republicans — and many Democrats — the right to carry guns cannot be infringed upon. And the Obama Administration cannot even advocate for logical restrictions on gun ownership, like an assault weapons ban, since it lost credibility by undertaking a possibly illegal gunwalking operation into Mexico, called Fast and Furious, that may have caused the death of an American law enforcement agent and multiple Mexicans.

As paralysis seizes American lawmakers each time rational gun control measures are pointed at them, even comedians start making more sense. Like Chris Rock, when he says, “Gun control? We need bullet control! I think every bullet should cost $5,000.” Something in that, at least the psychos will be firing blanks. As the political standoff continue, the gun issue will not become an un-issue anytime soon.

The morning after the massacre at the Dark Knight Rises screening, American Rifleman, the magazine of the NRA, the gun lobby behemoth, was tweeting: “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday? Weekend plans?”

Meanwhile, author Salman Rushdie was castigated for riffing on the Batman film after the Aurora shooting, as he tweeted his frustration: “The ‘right to bear arms’ is the real Bane of America.” Better to receive flak than to wear a flak jacket each time you want to venture into a public space.

The obvious truth is that a Holmes or a Page, shorn of their guns and armed with knives or baseball bats, couldn’t have indulged their murderous instincts to the extent they did. But Captain Obvious isn’t an American superhero.

Currently based in Toronto, Anirudh Bhattacharyya has been a New York-based foreign correspondent for eight years

The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Aug 10, 2012 23:45 IST