I went online today to see if I could buy a Gatling gun. It turns out there are at least five websites where the weapon can be purchased. One of them is Colt Manufacturing in West Hartford. Another is Cabela’s Sporting Goods, where you can assemble the gun yourself.
The Gatling gun can shoot 800 rounds a minute. The early electric version could shoot 3,000 rounds a minute. That’s 50 bullets every second. The Gatling gun is not defined as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD), but ask the victims about that.
Dr. Richard Gatling’s invention in 1861 was the first WMD, built by Colt Firearms in Hartford. The good doctor, it is said, wanted to limit bloodshed in war so he created a machine of death so powerful it would scare away the enemy. Also, the gun ensured fewer battlefield deaths, Gatling argued, because we wouldn’t need so many soldiers. There are always good reasons for producing bigger and more deadly weapons.
Connecticut has a long, long tradition of building and deploying WMDs:
—There are currently 2100 active U.S. nuclear warheads in the world today. Some of them are on the 14 Trident submarines built at the Groton shipyard by General Dynamics. Eight million M-16 machine guns have been produced by Colt’s since the 1960s.
–During World War I, the U.S. government ordered the production of poison gas. Two Stamford companies made 3 million pounds of Chloropicrin, a Class 1 toxin.
The American Synthetic and Yale & Towne companies were subsidized by the Feds for their work.
–At least 14 Connecticut towns were host to Nike missle bases in response to the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Some of these missles were fitted with nuclear warheads. From 1956 to 1971, Windsor, Manchester, and New Britain residents were among those who shared their back yards with the Nike nukes.
–Looking further back in history, our state is even responsible for its share of torture and terrorism. During the American Revolution, Silas Deane consorted with a shady fellow nicknamed “John the Painter” (real name James Aitken). John had an aptitude for settings fires. Deane gave him money and contacts to carry out his work torching British shipyards.
The sheer numbers of these weapons, not to mention the populations they can kill, are staggering. But on a visceral level they mean little. It takes a smaller number, closer to home, to have an impact. One example: Adam Lanza’s 26 victims at the Sandy Hook elementary school in December, 2012. Lanza carried a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle, called the civilian version of the M-16. It’s available at Cabela’s too.
An 1882 unsigned editorial in the Hartford Courant put it succinctly:
“Give us a murder or suicide and it is but small chance that Connecticut didn’t have a hand in it either with its powder, its cartridge, its revolver or its edge tool; and give us a war and we can furnish the material for any amount of slaughter…
The fact is we make guns, and load them, and mean business.”