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The United States of Fear

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The US Senate has killed Senator Diane Feinstein's Obama-backed proposal to ban assault weapons as part of a series of gun control measures put forward in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre last December. The bill proposed to ban 160 specific semiautomatic weapons and rifles, assorted military-style parts, and limit the size of ammunition magazines.

It was dropped because it failed to garner the sixty votes required to bring the bill to final passage. Needless to say no Republican senator voted for it, and some Democrats also opposed the bill.

Feinstein attributed her defeat to the fact that "the enemies on this are very powerful" and singled out the National Rifle Association. But some of the comments in an article on the Washington Post on Feinstein's defeat perhaps explain why America will not let easily let go of its guns, such as the person who declared:

To celebrate I'm going to get a "Hello-Kitty" style AR-15.

And the one who remembered how

During the LA riots after the Rodney King ruling, the cops bugged out of whole areas.
Lawless. Government protection? "poof" gone.
What do you do?
It happened. It is real. It can happen again. Are you prepared?

And another who wrote

New Orleans after Katrina. No police.

And then there was this astute observation

Hitler took guns away from the jews and all the nations he conquered. His philosophy was to disarm a nation citizens was the first step to dominance.

So God bless America, a country that has the largest military machine in history and no conceivable military challengers, yet lives in fear of a seemingly endless array of 'threats' that includes rogue states, terrorists, and drug cartels.

It's the country of 'homeland security', whose citizens are increasingly as afraid of each other as they are of the outside world, a country haunted by apocalyptic visions of social collapse depicted by Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice-president:

After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.

And worse is yet to come:

Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals. These are perils we are sure to face - not just maybe. It's not paranoia to buy a gun. It's survival.

As if that wasn't bad enough, there is President Obama, who has refused to construct 'a secure border fence along the entire Mexican border', thereby creating a situation in which 'the border today remains porous not only to people seeking jobs in the U.S., but to criminals whose jobs are murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping. '

Given these scenarios, it's a wonder that Americans don't just barricade themselves in with a stockpile of food and ammunition and shoot anything that goes anywhere near them, like the cast of The Walking Dead.

No wonder LaPierre wants a 'trained professional with a gun' to be permanently deployed in every school and believes that rape can be prevented by ' a good woman with a gun.'

Meanwhile, on 7 March, statistics indicated that 2,793 people had been shot dead since the Newton killings, including 43 teenagers and 143 children. And in Newton itself, there have been 79 requests for gun permits since the massacre on 14 December, compared with an annual average of 130 licences in the years that preceded it.

The rise in permit requests has also been felt nationally. All this is a positive development, according to LaPierre, which proves that 'tens of millions of Americans are already preparing to Stand And Fight to protect their families and homes.'

In LaPierre's view, guns are the ultimate guarantor of individual freedom and security, and the more Americans have guns, the freer and more secure they become.

But the equation could also be put another way: the more frightened people are, the more they want guns; and the more guns there are, the more they have reason to be frightened of each other, creating a dynamic whose ultimate outcome would to have a society in which pretty much everyone can walk around with a pistol or an automatic weapon.

That might be the NRA's ideal of the good society, but from where I'm standing it looks a lot like dystopia