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Tony Norman commentary: The latest comrades in death

Summary: While immigration, Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter live in the imagination of racists as the source of all that is evil in America, you'd be hard pressed to find even one negative story about GRT in conservative media, despite the fact that GRT-inspired manifestos and their authors have killed more people than CRT on its worse day.

Police on scene at a Tops Friendly Market on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York. Ten people were killed after a mass shooting at the store, with the shooter in police custody.
Police on scene at a Tops Friendly Market on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York. Ten people were killed after a mass shooting at the store, with the shooter in police custody.
John Normile/Getty Images/TNS
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There's a temptation to think the details no longer matter when it comes to mass shootings. The faces of the victims blur into one another in an endless carousel of pain.

There are so many of them. They are Black parishioners praying with a stranger after a Bible study. They are Jews gathering for shabbat services in a quiet neighborhood. They are Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso. They are people of all types shot by the dozens at a music festival on the Las Vegas strip. They are Asian women in Atlanta singled out for offenses the killer can't articulate.

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There's a temptation to think the details no longer matter when it comes to mass shootings. The faces of the victims blur into one another in an endless carousel of pain.

There are so many of them. They are Black parishioners praying with a stranger after a Bible study. They are Jews gathering for shabbat services in a quiet neighborhood. They are Hispanic shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso. They are people of all types shot by the dozens at a music festival on the Las Vegas strip. They are Asian women in Atlanta singled out for offenses the killer can't articulate.

Journalistic practice of late is to downplay the killer's name to deny him — and it is usually a male — the notoriety he desperately craves. But whether the killer takes his own life, is killed in a shootout with police or surrenders to authorities after his blood lust is satiated, he knows his name will live on even if it is only in manifestos and chatrooms on the dark web. That's where the next mass killer is already lurking, drawing inspiration from what the latest killer has already done to translate their own antisocial theory into action.

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There are no Lee Harvey Oswalds or James Earl Rays among today's killers. No one claims to be a patsy "framed" by unseen hands behind the scenes. In most cases, these men are proud of themselves. They buy their guns legally and in accordance with a law that sees nothing wrong with selling powerful weapons to individuals at whatever the market will bear. These men show off their arsenal on social media while threatening their enemies, whether real or imagined, with death.

As usual, there is handwringing over the devastation many of these social media-spawned killers bring. The rending of garments by clergy, community activists and commentators is an attempt, however feeble, to inject morality into a morally dysfunctional discourse.

Even in the early hours when the motives of the shooter are most obscure, there is grudging agreement on all sides that the rivers of blood created by a right enumerated three centuries ago in the Constitution has turned America into the world's most violent modern democracy.

But any talk of modifying that right is off the table. Changes to what has become an immutable law cannot be discussed or even hinted at in polite company. It is un-American to talk of limiting access to weapons used to kill swaths of citizens daily. It is un-American to make any citizen in good standing jump through hoops to buy an assault weapon or handguns when he or she feels threatened.

Law-abiding citizens, no matter their mental state, private prejudices or publicly stated bigotries, should have the option to buy as many guns as they consider necessary to secure their happiness at any given moment.

The pursuit of happiness is guaranteed in our most sacred founding documents, isn't it? And happiness, as one genius put it years before he was shot dead by a maniacal fan outside his New York apartment building, is a warm gun.

But we all know guns aren't the problem in America, right? It's the lack of guns that causes destabilization and chaos. Take the racist mass shooter in Buffalo who killed 10 people at a supermarket on Saturday. That coward didn't seek out a predominantly Black neighborhood where he would encounter armed resistance, most likely from people his own age. No, he sought out soft targets where people are less likely to be armed.

Imagine if all those Black folks had been armed in accordance with rights enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. They could've made short work of the racist maniac while he was still in the parking lot and gone about their business the rest of the day. That's what daily life should be in America — a nation of straight shooters taking care of business. It would be a utopia of the permanently strapped.

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It's the lack of guns that make these massacres possible. In America, even maniacs have a God-given right to happiness and security that comes with owning a gun. There is no higher right — not even another person's right to life.

Sure, America might be better off if white supremacists and gangbangers faced-off regularly in a world walled off from everyone else, but that's never going to happen. These gun-toting "warriors" are too afraid to risk facing anyone similarly armed who sees them coming, so any Hunger Games of Hate would consist of running and hiding until an opportunity presented itself to shoot someone in the back. Pursuing happiness has nothing to do with actual bravery.

America's mania for guns is also fed by an unacknowledged racist past and continuing subculture of violence that permeates everything.

If we exempt school massacres from the list, most of the mass killings of recent years have been done by self-described believers in the "Great Replacement Theory" (also known as GRT) Fox News' Tucker Carlson babbles on about regularly.

In short, Carlson and his ilk encourage millions of alienated whites to see themselves as under permanent siege by immigrants and "dirty, obedient foreigners" brought to this country by Democrats to "replace" whites and dilute their power and influence.

While immigration, Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter live in the imagination of racists as the source of all that is evil in America, you'd be hard pressed to find even one negative story about GRT in conservative media, despite the fact that GRT-inspired manifestos and their authors have killed more people than CRT on its worse day.

But in the end, assault weapons aren't loyal to any particular ideology except weakness. These guns are wielded by cowards of all persuasions. The shooters in the 'hood aren't morally superior to the shooters in the synagogues, the churches and the supermarkets. When the police tape is unfurled, they all turn out to be equally contemptible comrades in death.

Tony Norman is a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist.

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