The killings in Isla Vista by one misogynist thug represent a terrible loss of life, most killed with a gun. Of course people can die so many ways, and the Isla Vista murderer managed to stab three people to death and run one down with his car. Still, the focus is and should be on the quickest, easiest way and thus most dangerous way to kill a lot of people: guns.

Joe the Plumber

Enter Joe the Plumber. You remember Joe, right? He was a pathetic, semi-employed, non-union plumber from Ohio that pathetic Republican candidate for president John McCain plucked out of a pathetic crowd in 2008 and tried to make a pathetic campaign meme out of. Working man, pull up by his bootstraps, that old garbage. Joe (which isn’t even his real name) had a few minutes of faux-fame alongside the other sideshow to that freakish campaign, Sarah Palin, and both more or less crawled back into the mud from whence they came. Or should have.

For reasons quite unclear, people still feed and diaper Joe the Plumber, interview him, and perhaps even listen to him. And for a reporter desperate for some new angle on America’s latest mass murder, what better to do than look up ol’ Joe for a comment. Here’s what Joe said:

I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: [sic] As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights. But the words and images blaming “the proliferation of guns”, lobbyists, politicians, etc.; will be exploited by gun-grab extremists as are all tragedies involving gun violence and the mentally ill by the anti-Second Amendment Left.

I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are going through, having had your child taken away from you. However, any feelings you have toward my rights being taken away from me, lose those.

Second Amendment

Leaving aside the simple insensitivity of speaking that way to grieving parents whose kids were just murdered by a loon allowed to own multiple handguns and carry 400 rounds of ammunition in his car, my hat’s off to Joe for turning a tragedy around and making it all about him. Classy.

In addition, though Joe likely don’t read no much no more, the Second Amendment is about the only part of our Bill of Rights that hasn’t been gutted post-9/11. Right to privacy? Ask the NSA. Freedom of speech? Check with jailed Occupy people. Right to a fair trial? How’s that going Chelsea Manning? Nope, nobody is grabbing any guns Joe. Repeat after me: It. Is. All. In. Your. Head. Now stop mixing oxy and vodka shots, ‘Kay?

What Joe missed was the chance to decry how “nothing could have been done about this.” Yeah, sure, the cops checked the shooter out ahead of time, but, well, they didn’t search his house or look at his social media as if he were, you know, a brown Muslim. And those reports about him being mentally ill. Well, sir, that’s no crime either.

What could have been done? How can we as a nation reconcile this terrible tragedy with what Joe the Plumber had to say?

America as No. 1

To start, it is sadly clear America has a lot of mass shootings. 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States. In second place is Finland, with two entries. Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country. It seems to be getting worse: there have been at least 21 during the last six years. School shootings seem an American speciality. The number of such incidents in the U.S. was only one less than in the next highest 36 countries combined. Americans die from violence in general, and gun violence in the specific, at higher rates than pretty much anywhere outside of actual war zones.

It’s the Guns, but It isn’t Just the Guns

There are many other countries where guns are abundant. There are also examples of mass murders by the mentally ill around the world. But it seems that the two only collide with, well, such violence, in the United States. For Joe the Plumber, Joe, relax. No one is going to take your guns away. Americans will continue to be able to purchase whatever kinds of firearms they wish, in any quantity, and with any amount and type of ammunition. The nation barely even throws gun control lip service any more, even after (another) mass shooting.

The Second Amendment long ago swerved so far from the Founder’s intent, “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” that it no longer seems to exist within today’s context of the Bill of Rights. The confluence of huge corporate interests represented by the NRA, carpetbagging politicians owned by the NRA and frightened people protecting their own fears ensures this amendment alone will forever stand untouched. The guns are not going away.

So that leaves us. Why are we so violent? Why, after a workplace slight or a turn-down by a woman, is the go-to move for too many Americans to pick up a gun and slaughter unrelated and innocent people? I hate to end this way, but I don’t know why. I want some sort of gun control, but I know while it is necessary, it won’t be sufficient. I wish I knew why. I wish I knew.

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Peter Van Buren writes about current events at blog. His book,Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now from from Amazon.

Photo by MGlascow at flickr.com under Creative Commons license