“Hunting is murder. The problem comes from a culture, including religion, that exalts people above accountability for the harm that they cause others. “~ Jeff Biss, comment on the Wisconsin Bear Sanctuary GoFundMe page
17 people were murdered in Parkland.
Referencing the murder of millions of indigenous wildlife annually does not diminish that violence, but calls us to a parallel issue that must be addressed if young people are to inherit a living world. With two-thirds of wildlife destroyed on the planet in just 50 years, and 60 percent of large mammals threatened with extinction right now, we as a society must end the war on wildlife that is at the core of overall violence in this culture.
We are late to act and there is no guarantee that our species will survive the arrogance we have exhibited by dismissing the suffering and extinction of other species.
The correlation between cruelty to animals and domestic violence has been established for decades. Teaching young children that killing wildlife is a cultural norm and promoted by adults is numbing them to the sacredness of all life.
The teens of Parkland are well aware that money and power have a similar numbing effect on adults in the legislatures of this country. Gun fanaticism and brute patriarchal violence have dominated our government policies for decades.
The students who are speaking out are well educated, articulate and motivated for change. My hope is that their push for laws that ensure their own safety will impact the violence rotting within, and exported outside, our country. It is urgent that efforts go beyond human concerns to a wider understanding: If we do not protect wildlife as well as people, we will not accomplish the end of violence.
The Outdoor Channel’s “Under Wild Skies,” which also runs on NRA TV, started and continues as a showcase for wildlife killing.
Gun violence is primarily not a caused by mental illness or violent videos. According to the book “Gun Violence and Mental Illness” published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2016, mass shootings by seriously mental ill people represent 1 percent of gun homicides annually. Pretending to solve the gun problem while sidestepping guns will not work.
An AR-15 bullet “does not have to actually hit an artery to damage it and cause catastrophic bleeding. Exit wounds can be the size of an orange,” said Dr. Heather Sher, a radiologist who examined student victims of the Marjory Stoneman shootings.
Connecticut legislated some of the tougher gun laws in the country after the Sandy Hook massacre and, according to Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., cut state violence by 40 percent. A 2013 New Republic article quotes Murphy: “The NRA is just all mythology…The NRA does not win elections anymore….The reason for the gap between perception and reality is that, for many years, the NRA has had no real opposition.”
Parkland survivors, joined by gun violence survivors all over the country, are determined opposition. Soon they will vote. One student said we should rename the AR-15 “the Marco Rubio” because it is so easy to buy. Emma Gonzalez, survivor of the Valentine’s Day Parkland shooting, called out NRA purchased politicians with “We call BS.” She has more Twitter followers than the NRA. The repeated call is to vote out NRA shills.
Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, wrote the 2014 Politico article “How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment.” It is fascinating reading for anyone who wants less gun violence. It describes how the NRA manipulated the message to distort the Second Amendment’s intent.
In Slate.com’s 2014 “America’s Gun Fantasy” (excerpt from Kurt Anderson’s book “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History”), Anderson quotes Chief Justice Warren Burger, a conservative appointed by President Richard Nixon, saying he complained after he retired that “…the Second Amendment ‘has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word fraud — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.’”
The students who survived the Parkland massacre and parents from the Newtown massacre are making reasonable demands:
• Ban semi-automatic guns and bump stocks.
• Severely limit the size of ammunition magazines.
• Universal background checks without loopholes.
• Reinstate funding for gun violence research.
• Legislators:Stop taking money from the NRA and weapons manufacturers.
• Demand that businesses and banks divest from alliances with the NRA
This is not a time for incrementalism. It is a time for major reformation toward peaceful policies and against guns and violence on all levels of society, including our dwindling wildlife that is under constant assault.
Do not fool yourselves. We are in the fight of our lives for peace and survival in the midst of a death culture. We face crises of accelerating climate change, species extinction, and the threat of nuclear war. We cannot live on a dead, hot planet. Our wanton joy-ride of killing and exploiting earth ends or we are toast.
This is our opportunity to hold legislators accountable or vote them out.
Donald Trump has flip-flopped on banning trophy lion and elephant imports as elephants continue to be poached 96 per day, and lion populations plummet. You can sign this petition against encouraging trophy hunting and poaching African wildlife here.
Help push Congress to ban assault weapons by signing this petition.
March for Our Lives in solidarity with the Parkland Students Washington March, Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m., Wisconsin State Capitol, corner of State Street and Mifflin.
This column was originally published in the Madison Cap Times on March 11, 2018.