Do you know how once you stub your toe it seems like you keep on banging it again and again, constantly re-aggravating the injury? Since writing on gun violence and how the presence of guns increases the lethality of conflicts, especially those that arise within families and even within ourselves to produce horrific numbers of murders, suicides, and inevitably compound murder/suicides, I’ve been constantly reminded of the prevalence of gun-enabled horror by a seemingly unending stream of news stories, one of them funny, but the others tragic.
To keep things light, let’s start with the funny one. It was recently revealed that the National Rifle Association maintains a Nixonian “enemies list,” which, due to embarrassment, has since been removed from the organization’s web site, but which has been helpfully recreated by Abby Zimet of Common Dreams. The list contains people and organizations the NRA considers to be “anti-gun.” With more than 500 entries, the list features a “Who’s Who” of celebrities and prominent groups who can be difficult to categorize, but it’s fun to try.
Short people: Danny DeVito, Peter Dinklage and Dustin Hoffman (Really. Hoffman is so short that while filming the movie “Rain Man” Tom Cruise, who stands all of 5 feet 7 inches, used to say, “Thank God for Hoffman. Otherwise I’d be the last person to know when it rains.”)
Divas: Gloria Estefan, Madonna, Beyonce, Shaka Khan and Barry Manilow
Zappas – Dweezil, Ahmet, Moon Unit, and Diva (who could have been under “Divas,” but family first!)
Won’t make the Hall of Fame, but at least they got some recognition: Pitcher Mike Torrez, quarterbacks Vinny Testaverde and Doug Flutie (who, because when lined up under center he had to stand on this toes to see the defense, I nearly put in the “short people” category. But I decided to show mercy)
West Virginians: Mary Lou Retton and Jennifer Garner (now that this is out, will they be allowed back in the state to visit family?)
Women on whom I’ve had a crush: Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Helen Hunt and Meg Ryan (pre-work)
Women on whom I haven’t had a crush: Fran Drescher, Bette Midler, Penny Marshall, Rosie O’Donnell and Meg Ryan (post-work)
The state of Missouri: An array of prominent businesses in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas including the phone company and, interestingly, every major league sports team in the state including the St. Louis Rams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs (must be lingering resentment over the guns vs. bows and arrows mismatch)
People who have to deal with the tragedy: The National Association of Police Organizations, the National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officers and the Police Foundation
People who have to clean up the mess: Many medical organization including the American Medical Association, the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Nurses Association.
People who have to conduct the funerals: American Jewish Committee, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, the United States Catholic Conference, the Congress of National Black Churches, the Episcopal Church’s Washington Office, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the United Methodist Church General Board & Church Society and the United Church of Christ Office for Church in Society.
But, as funny or unfunny as the NRA’s enemies list is, there has also been a steady drumbeat of gun-enabled tragedies involving prominent people who are united in having owned guns as a means of protection only to find their protective weapons turned on their loved ones, themselves and often both.
The Greg Griego family: Greg Griego was a prominent minister in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In January, his fifteen year-old son Nehemiah apparently took a gun from the family collection and murdered Griego, his wife, and Griego’s three daughters ages 9, 5 and 2.
The American Sniper: Chris Kyle, former military sniper and author of the bestselling memoir, “American Sniper,” and a friend were apparently murdered by a fellow veteran who they had invited to a shooting event.
Oscar Pistorius: The famed Olympic athlete has been charged with shooting his girlfriend to death.
Mindy McCready’s boyfriend: David Wilson was found shot to death at singer Mindy McCready’s home. The death was presumed to be a suicide, but police say the case is still open.
Mindy McCready: Apparently shot herself to death days after her boyfriend David Wilson was shot to death.
Dr. Bruce Foster and Marlise Foster: The prominent Charleston doctor and his wife died from gunshot wounds in an apparent murder/suicide.
As I said, it’s like the stubbed toe you just keep smacking again. Or maybe since writing about the horrific toll of gun violence I’m just more apt to notice these things. But either way, it reminds me of the absurdity of owning a gun for self protection. I just pray for those who do and, more than that, for their loved ones and friends that the ongoing litany of tragedies finally begins to penetrate their minds and souls so that they, their friends and family members won’t end up on this list that sadly is growing even faster than the NRA enemies list.
— Sean O’Leary can be contacted at email@example.com. A version of this column containing links to references and statistical sources may be found at www.the-state-of-my-state.com.