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The Rant

What the latest rash of ricin-letter senders says about us isn't pretty.

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The latest batch of ricin letters to public officials came from — surprise — Texas. One tainted missive was sent to the president and two others were sent to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and to the office of his advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an organization of 700 mayors nationwide that is urging Congress to expand background checks for gun sales. The packages contained a letter that read: "You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional, God-given right and I will exercise that right till the day I die. What's in this letter is nothing compared to what I've got planned for you."

Let me ask you something, Skippy: Who are you going to shoot first? The mailman? The UPS driver? The pizza guy? Let's say your most paranoid delusions are correct and Obama really is coming for your guns. Do you have a grenade launcher, because, as we all know, Obama has drones. Have you acquired a bazooka? How's that assault rifle going to fend off the M1 Abrams tank rolling up your driveway?

And in which obscure scripture did you find a passage where God gave you the right to own a gun? I must have missed that class during my parochial school education. I heard things like, "Love ye one another" and "What you have done to the least of these, you have also done unto me." I never heard, "If someone slaps you on one cheek, pull out your nine millimeter and shoot them in the face."

How dare some hate-infused, delusional, would-be assassin bring God into his deadly actions, and what makes him any different from an al-Qaeda terrorist? Just after these letters were intercepted, another toxin-laced letter addressed to the president was discovered sent from Spokane, Washington. Do these crazy bastards believe that the president opens his own mail? The New York letter was opened in a biochemical containment box, but three officers who examined the letter suffered minor symptoms.

These toxic outlaws believe they're delivering a blow to a tyrannical government, when, actually, they are making a teenage intern in the mailroom nauseous.

Last week's letters were just the latest in a string of similar recent incidents. A Washington state man was arrested for mailing ricin to a federal judge; a package sent to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane was also discovered to contain the poison. And last month, a local crime-drama broke out when ricin-laced letters addressed to the president, a federal judge, and a state senator were discovered to have been mailed from Memphis.

The Bloomberg letters were traced to New Boston, Texas, where the FBI arrested Nathaniel Richardson, an army veteran employed by the Defense Department, after receiving a tip from his wife, who called police after finding a Tupperware container with ricin in the refrigerator. If that weren't enough, the wife is actress Shannon Rogers Guess, best known for a part in The Blind Side and her role as a zombie on The Walking Dead. Richardson is pointing the finger at her, claiming she bought ricin-rich castor beans over the internet with a credit card to frame him.

These bizarre culprits are merely the dull tip of the spear when it comes to the gun-crazed individuals who live among us. The NRA has morphed from an organization that taught firearm safety and responsible gun ownership into a lobbying group for the armaments industry. Their heartless hysteria after the Newtown child slaughter caused gullible gun owners to panic that their rights were in jeopardy, especially after the NRA participated in spreading the false rumor that there was a government plot to buy up the civilian supply of ammunition after a media-induced run on bullets created a shortage.

Unable to see through Fox News and hate-radio propaganda that closing gun-show loopholes will lead to Black Hawk helicopters over Shreveport, these angry citizens live in fear of their own government and walk around with violent fantasies floating through their fevered minds. If you are told all day by right-wing media that you are at war with your government over your basic freedoms, then sending a toxin-laden letter to the chief executive doesn't make you a terrorist. In your own mind, it makes you a patriot.

On the morning of November 22, 1963, the Dallas Morning News ran an ad from a right-wing group featuring President John F. Kennedy on a wanted poster with the slogan "Wanted for Treason," along with a list of his fictitious misdeeds, including, "appointing anti-Christians to Federal office." I've always wondered if the paper regretted their bad judgment considering Kennedy died that day. Similar lies about President Obama have been accepted as fact by a large number of people who were inclined to dislike him in any case.

California assemblyman Tim Donnelly recently said on Christian radio that the unfettered possession of firearms was "absolutely essential to living the way God intended for us to live." This sort of disinformation comes from a belief that the Constitution was divinely inspired and, as such, is a perfect document, much like the scriptures.

So, when a person who watches Fox News bile all day finally goes insane with paranoia, why should it be surprising when that person decides to take action against their government and its officials. When a group implies that its members need to take up arms against their government, it's called treason. And any cabal of weapons peddlers who advocate the arming of citizens against their elected officials needs to be classified as a terrorist organization.

Randy Haspel writes the "Born-Again Hippies" blog, where a version of this column first appeared.

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