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In a freak accident more suitable for Internet satire than news, police in the Lehigh Valley say a man fell asleep watching a YouTube video about assault rifles. Then, police say, he accidentally fired the assault rifle he was holding into his neighbors’ bedroom.

According to the Easton Express-Times, the gun owner “was watching YouTube videos on a new trigger for his Rebel Arms AR-15 after installing it on the gun” early Monday morning. At some point during his personal second amendment shindig, the man zonked out and then went all Rambo on the wall separating his and his neighbor’s apartment.

While the story seems amusing at first glance, the fact that this incident involved his neighbors is pretty damn disturbing. The gun owner’s neighbors “were woken up by a loud noise and saw a hole in the [next apartment's] bedroom wall adjacent” to the man’s home, according to the Easton Express-Times. In addition to the man’s neighbors, though, “two children, ages 1 and 2, were sleeping in” the apartment, too.

Police have charged the man with aggravated assault, discharge of a firearm into an occupied structure, and recklessly endangering another person.

Gun rights enthusiasts have repeatedly demonstrated their own recklessness in public, recently frightening customers at Chipotle and Home Depot in Texas as part of the so-called “open carry” movement. Now, members of the open carry movement have retailer Target in their figurative crosshairs, too.

Proponents of that movement say that carrying around legally-registered assault rifles in plain sight is perfectly OK because of the US Constitution. In fact, the National Rifle Association first distanced itself from the open carry movement, calling such disturbing displays “weird” and “counterproductive.”

After saying that those who display assault rifles, even legally registered ones, flagrantly in public scare more people than convince them that guns are OK, the NRA then distanced itself from its own statements.In its original post, the NRA said that being a responsible gun owner meant being a good neighbor; the NRA later apologized for, apparently, hurting the feelings of a few Elmer Fudds with just as much fire in their bellies as belly fat.

Accidental shootings like the one in the Lehigh Valley two days ago continue to endanger public safety. Sometimes, accidents happen — like the tragic death of a young father in Florida this week — and even the local police accidentally discharge firearms. Still, it’s the largest gun-rights advocacy organization in the country, the NRA, that seems to be leading the charge with an implied “more guns are good” message.

The fact remains that the NRA, once a gun-safety organization but now seemingly one big gun advertorial, doesn’t seem to care much about gun safety. Instead, the organization seems more focused on appeasing a small number of zealots scaring the rest of the nation.

Given the fact that schools shootings have continued to increase since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 and that no serious action has thus far been taken to curtail the proliferation of assault rifles, there seems to be no end in sight to the carnage wrecked by gun rights enthusiasts. In scientific, peer-reviewed studies promoted by Harvard University, the facts are clear:

  • Where there are more guns, even legally registered ones, there is more homicide.
  • In high income nations like the United States, where there are more guns, even legally registered ones, there is more homicide.
  • In US states, where there are more guns, even legally registered ones, there is more homicide.

The question for the nation isn’t whether or not people should have guns: The US Constitution guarantees and the Supreme Court has reaffirmed Americans’ right to private gun, even handgun, ownership. The question is how much pain and death, even accidental, Americans are willing to tolerate to make a small number of gun rights enthusiasts fetishists happy.

About The Author

Contributing columnist

Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and commentator in Philadelphia. His @PhillyWeekly column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” took the 2014 First Place Spotlight Award for weekly newspaper commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists and the 2014 Second Place Award for weekly newspaper commentary in the United States and Canada from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He also blogs daily for PW on various topics including queer culture and news, mass transit, politics, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, civil liberties, activism, media and everything else Philly.

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