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Tony Gentry

This Week’s Domestic Massacre

Updated: May 17

The Maine shooter, a trained marksman, was hearing voices and targeting his National Guard unit when their commander had him hospitalized not long ago. He stayed in for two weeks, actually a pretty long commitment for serious mental health problems in America, but then was sent home, probably with some meds and an appointment with a video shrink. The voices then pointed him to a local bowling alley, maybe at his former girlfriend, and ordered him to kill.

The polls say most of us want an assault weapons ban, everybody wants better healthcare. Even with Obamacare having equated mental illness with physical illness, making psychiatric treatment available to more of us, the treatment available is still woefully inadequate for those with serious mental illness (as reporter Alisa Dane’s harrowing expose Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness (2020) so clearly shows, the nation’s largest mental institutions are its prisons).

Phil Klay, the most thoughtful of the young writers to emerge from the OIF/OEF campaigns in the Middle East, last year wrote an article on guns in America, exploring how, since the middle-1800s, manufacturers have created a myth of danger and personal bravery in order to market weapons of war to the average joe. The article explains, too, in graphic detail, how high-velocity projectiles were designed to do their tissue-wrecking damage, and how high-capacity magazines emerged as battlefield standards. Not to mention how the GOP (in Congress and the Supreme Court) has jumped on the band wagon, using fear of crime as a campaign slogan, and that fatal comma in the Constitution as a justification for the serial carnage they claim to abhor. Read it here.

Do you know the Maine author Carolyn Chute? Her 1985 novel The Beans of Egypt, Maine, was made into a movie. It’s a sobering tale about a poor white family coping as best they can in the backwaters of the wealthiest nation on earth. An off-grid gun enthusiast herself, Chute’s novels provide the best (and most sympathetic) explanation I’ve read about the origins of MAGA (guns and all) for those of us who find it a mystery. When I read that the shooter was from a large clan of longtime Mainers, hunters and fishermen and small town workers, just as his victims were, I thought of another of Chute’s novels: Treat Us Like Dogs, and We’ll Become Wolves.

In today’s New York Times, a three paragraph letter to the editor from Maine’s most famous and prolific author Stephen King. This week’s shooting reads, I think, like a mash-up of a Chute domestic saga and a King horror story. Here’s King’s letter.

Finally, all the way back in 1978, so many mass shootings ago, my favorite punk band Gang of Four had this to say about the AR-15s they call Armalite Rifles in the UK. Play it loud.

And if you live, as I do, in Virginia, Election Day November 7 matters. We are thisclose to seeing meaningful gun control legislation in our state, but you have to vote to make that happen.

May all the past, present and future victims rest in peace.

Addendum (November 16): I commend the Washington Post for publishing today this appropriately horrifying photo essay showing the aftermath of our most egregious AR-15 rampages. Hard to hide your head in the sand when you’ve seen it.

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