Yesterday morning Aiden Leos, a 6-year-old boy, was being driven to school by his mother when he was shot dead in an insanity of road rage. His unidentified mother had been cut off by a white sedan in the carpool lane of Freeway 55 in Orange County CA. She reportedly flipped off the car’s driver. A passenger then fired an unknown number of shots. Aiden, who was sitting in a safety seat in the right rear of the family’s silver Chevy sedan, was hit.
His mother and older sister, Alexis Cloonan, were unhurt.
As Cloonan later told reporters, Aiden moaned to his mother “mommy, my tummy hurts”. And then the frantic mom “picked [Aiden] up and he was bleeding on her, she had blood on her clothes. And then he started turning blue, and that’s when the ambulance took him. And that’s the last time my mom saw him alive.”
She ended with a plea, “Please help us find who did this to my little brother.”
And thus Aiden Leos became another tragic statistic, soon to be forgotten, on the anonymous list of the hundreds of thousands of Americans shot dead in a country that will do nothing to address its pandemic of gun violence.
We have become inured to mass shootings. And even school massacres have done nothing to change America’s culture of death. The Columbine (13 dead), Virginia Tech (32), Sandy Hook (27), Parkland (17), mass murders are etched into the history of gun death in the US. Each, in turn, demanded that reasonable people do something about gun violence in America. And in every instance revealed that there are enough Republicans to prevent what morality, regard for life and love of children would demand.
But these high-profile mass-fatality obscenities obscure the grinding reality of gun death in the US. Most gun homicide victims do not die in made-for-cable news mass killings. No. They die one or two at a time, anonymously, in little-noted shootings soon forgotten — unless you are a family member.
In 2018, the year in which 17 were killed at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, an average of 41 people were shot dead in homicides every day. In 2020, the daily number increased to 53. And on top of that, another 66 people killed themselves with a gun every twenty-four hours.
It’s not just that America is awash in guns. It is the fetishization of guns by the Rambo segment of the population enabled by politicians bent over by the gun lobby. The Canadians and Swiss have plenty of guns — but the homicide rate in Canada is 65% less and in Switzerland 88% less, than in America.
Swiss culture demands enormous respect for guns and stiff penalties for misuse. Guns and ammunition are religiously locked up and stored separately in the home. And any sign of domestic violence, mental problems, or addiction can lead to the confiscation of an individual’s guns. In Canada, while the purchase of shotguns and hunting rifles, (with a maximum of 10 rounds) are little restricted, the buyer must have a firearms acquisition certificate. Pistols sales are highly regulated. The buyer must produce a legitimate reason for ownership. And carrying, either open or concealed, is practically non-existent.
But in America, attempts to ensure that guns are kept out of the hands of criminals, wife beaters and homicidal lunatics are stymied at every turn. The culture celebrates a ‘good guy with a gun’. Vigilantism is an excusable sin. Waiting for the cops is a sign of weakness. And Republican legislatures pass ‘castle doctrine’ and ‘stand your ground’ laws. Then George Zimmerman chases down an unarmed Trayvon Martin. Slaughters him on the way back from a snack run. And is excused by the Florida criminal justice system with apologies for the inconvenience.
And all of this based on the interpretation of a constitutional amendment by an army of citizen lawyers with not one hour of law school under their belts. Let’s note that someone who did know the Constitution and had impeccable conservative originalist credentials, Justice Antonin Scalia, argued that the second amendment was not absolute. In the Heller opinion, which enshrined the individual right to bear arms, he pointed to limits in the amendment’s scope.
Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
Although the ‘individual right’ is anathema to liberals, they should hammer home the full breadth of Scalia’s pro-gun regulation opinion. For some reason, they don’t. And conservatives win a constitutional argument they should lose.
And so America continues to find itself in a ‘Catch-22’. The more guns people own, the more gun violence. And the more gun violence the more guns people buy.
The death of Aiden Leos won’t make a damn bit of difference. And neither will the deaths of the 70 Americans shot dead since then. The pace of deaths of American civilians by gun violence in America today is higher than that of American troops in Vietnam. And Vietnam was a goddamn war.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the fact that the vast majority of Americans, who accept that guns aren’t going away, do believe in sensible measures such as universal background checks, waiting periods, better red flag laws, type of weapon restrictions et al. But that hope is dimmed by Republican politicians writing laws to enthrone a minority in power.
Voting is the best gun control measure.
RIP Aiden Leos. Your family will remember you. Conservative politicians never knew your name. And will never give a damn. Pro-life? Where’s the evidence?