Militia plus guns equal killing. Why are we surprised?
Sometimes you wonder what it will take to make America wake up to the insanity of its twisted gun culture.
A few days ago, two self-styled, anti-government militia members decided to start their own revolution against law enforcement. Before long, five people would be dead.
Jerad and Amanda Miller left a friend’s apartment after telling neighbors that they were going to carry out an attack against police, but the neighbors did nothing — did not call police or any authorities. Did they think the Millers were just kidding? The friend they were staying with, a self-styled “patriot” herself, saw them leave with a shopping cart full of guns and backpacks filled with ammunition, but she didn’t think anything of it. Just another Sunday morning with your guns, I guess. Police said the pair walked four miles through Las Vegas neighborhoods with the gun-loaded shopping cart, but apparently no residents or passersby bothered to call attention to the fact that heavily armed citizens were walking around a residential neighborhood.
We all know what happened next. The Millers went into a pizza restaurant where two police officers were taking a lunch break. The pair shot and killed both officers, took their weapons and ammunition, then covered one body with a Gadsden flag favored by Tea Party and militia groups with the words “Don’t Tread on Me.” They left a Nazi swastika just for extra decoration. They also pinned a note to one body, saying, “This is the beginning of the revolution.”
The Millers next went to a nearby Walmart, fired a round, announced that “the revolution had begun,” and yelled for shoppers to clear the store. Shopper Joseph Wilcox, carrying a concealed weapon himself, drew his gun, but Amanda Miller shot him. Sort of puts a damper on the National Rifle Association’s argument that “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” doesn’t it? Amanda Miller ended up shooting Jerad and killing herself.
The Millers were part of the heavily armed militia group that descended on the Cliven Bundy ranch in Nevada in April. Bundy, of course, is the freeloading cattle rancher who refused to pay fees for letting his cattle graze on federal lands for 20 years and owes the federal government $1 million in back payment and fines. Militia members carried assault rifles and other semi-automatic weapons, frequently aiming them at federal agents of the Bureau of Land Management who were just trying to do their jobs. The militia members all joined in spewing out heated rhetoric against the federal government. Jerad Miller even got his own 15 minutes of fame in a TV interview in which he issued a veiled threat against federal authorities.
Groups favoring the right to carry guns anywhere they damn well please have made news lately by carrying assault weapons into family restaurants such as Chipotle’s and Chili’s in Texas, and objecting when other patrons objected to them and store owners asked them to leave. They proudly carried their weapons into Target stores and even left a loaded gun in a toy aisle. In a moment of temporary sanity, the NRA spoke against this practice, saying it looked “weird.” The NRA had to backtrack quickly after the “carry-your-guns-everywhere” group threw a fit.
States are passing laws allowing people to carry guns into churches and into bars. Nope, nothing bad happens when you mix alcohol and guns, right? And no doubt the next phrase from the religious right will be WWJS — Who Would Jesus Shoot?
Maybe the Millers just acted alone, as police are saying. Maybe they were just two meth-addled young adults with nothing better to do on a Sunday. But they left a trail of YouTube videos and online rants filled with anti-government zealotry — views that are developed by listening to the same hate-filled rants from others, and in turn influence other “patriots” down the line.
How many killings will it take? How many more people have to die before the populace realizes it’s just not normal to walk calmly down the street with an assault rifle strapped to your back? The NRA was right — it is “weird.” How many more deaths do we need to know that you DON’T have to carry a gun everywhere you go?
The woman the Millers were staying with, Kelley Fielder, who accompanied the pair to the Bundy ranch, now tearfully says she’s got “five deaths on her shoulders,” and that she is “so sorry.” Somehow, I don’t think the widows and children of the two slain police officers take much comfort in her apology.
UPDATE: And before I could even finish writing this post, there is another school shooting in Oregon. This follows a shooting at Pacific State University. The Oregon school shooting is the 74th school shooting since 20 children were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
This is not the America we want to live in, but it seems to be the America we have right now.