THE GUNS OF AUGUST

IT WAS AN ORDINARY AUGUST in the United States.

In Virginia, a maid employed by Nancy Reagan to assist her with her wardrobe was implicated in a plot to smuggle ammunition to Paraguay.In Oklahoma, a distraught postal employee opened fire on his co-workers killing at least 14 of them and finally himself.

In a Washington suburb, a congressional aide who was reported to be working under contract to the Defense Department, allegedly dropped a homemade antitank weapon he was showing off, blowing up his truck and a large chunk of a gas station, injuring four people. Accidents will happen.

The seemingly unrelated stories all had a single source. The federal government played an important part in each of the incidents, although that in itself was not unusual either.

In the case of the maid, officials speculated that the woman was simply a dupe, noting that the thousands of rounds of ammunition she had purchased were readily available for what seemed like a very small amount of money. Federal law sees to that.

The mailman had access to numerous hand guns and rifles. Federal law makes allowances for that.

The congressional aide, a retired colonel, was way beyond the purview of any handgun law. The cannon he was sporting through residential neighborhoods was said to be six to eight feet long.

Against the backdrop of daily sensational violence, it's easy to forget that our government is in the everyday violence business. It is the biggest producer, exporter, subsidizer and user of guns in the world. It would be difficult to find a shooting war going on anywhere in the world without some connection to the United States, its arms merchants, or its creed of violence.

Yet we persist in promoting violence with sadistic movies and unequal law enforcement. We pretend that the violent eruptions, like those of August, are aberrations that crop up from time to time in our civilized society of laws.

Our violence is part and parcel of the law of the land that sanctions violence if not promoting it. This should concern us all.

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