Why Can’t We Get It

I don’t feel compelled to add my words to the millions (if not billions) that have been written since the Newtown killings except to this extent: I am just amazed how we , as a nation, cannot come to grips with the stark facts that have been displayed umpteen times since this latest mass tragedy (of course, there have been numerous shootings since that one but none with as high a death toll).  I expect nothing in the way of rational policy pronouncements form the NRA and it supporters but an awful lot of seemingly mainstream types, in politics and out, are diluting the obvious prescriptions with their chatter about the need for dialogue, the need to address mental health issues, and the need to address violence in entertainment.  As many wise people have already pointed out:

1.  There is no need for discussion except for those who care about this country to “discuss” with their elected officials the fact that they expect them to either enact meaningful gun control legislation or face defeat at the next election.

2.  We certainly should offer robust mental health services in this country but, relatively speaking, our country is not more mentally unhealthy than countries where death by guns is a tiny fraction of our toll.

3. We certainly should attempt to roll back some of the violence offered by the entertainment world but that possibility hinges on we, the people–if we don’t watch, or buy, or play, there won’t be violence offered to us.  I don’t have a lot of hope for this, as I watch the latest trailer for some mindless horror film.

Beyond dispute, the phenomenon we must address is ownership of guns and the sale of guns. The menu of options for doing this in reasonable, yet meaningful ways, has been well laid out in various op-eds, newspaper articles, blogs, etc. I am pleased to see vast numbers of commentators and survey respondents seemingly getting behind the array of ideas–will their energy dissipate before they lobby their elected representatives?  More than likely it will but one can hope.  I like the fact that adored celebrities seem to be willing, in at least a general way, to go public with their belief that we must do something in response to Newtown. Its time, they say–no, its way past time and it will continue to be unless the American people actually get over their ADD and maintain steady pressure by word and deed.

Among a whole lot of things about the current gun control “discussion” that drive me nuts–and cause me to wonder on a daily basis why we, as a nation, can’t get”it”–are the following two:

— Even advocates of gun control, out of a sense of realpolitik perhaps, seem like they will be content if assault weapons are banned and no other guns are proscribed.  While, I, too, would be pleased to see assault weapons knocked out of the market, I can see no reason why handguns should not be subject to far more restrictive ownership laws than they are.  Other than hunting–which should not involve either assault weapons or handguns–I can’t think of a single quasi-legitimate reason why people need to possess guns.  I don’t especially view most hunting as even falling into this category but I can concede this point. Yes, if we want to end the mass murder scenarios of recent years, assault weapons as the guns of choice must be dealt with but (as I will get to in my second drive-me-nuts facet) most gun violence in this country involves handguns.  To stop at limiting assault weapons really won’t get at the true problem in this country–its not that we have infrequent, yet dramatic, mass killings such as Columbine and Newtown but that on a daily basis, obscene numbers of people are gunned down.  Which is why…

–…the second point that absolutely drives me mad is that for many citizens who have sounded off, it is the fact that children were gunned down that broke the camel’s back.  Why?  Are the daily senseless killings in this country any less objectionable?  Is it okay when three twenty-year olds are shot for no reason?  How about an elderly couple–long life lived so no problem?  I look at innocence as innocence, regardless of age, and while children may present the case of the most innocent of people, they don’t hold the exclusive franchise.  I think it is an indictment of us all that we have allowed gun violence to flourish to the point where a Newtown could occur, but is not that event that should push us towards gun control.  Great that it is a catalyst but there are far more compelling facts of life that should have everyone up in arms, so to speak.

What is so hard about this, people?  How can so many of us still indicate in surveys that we have no problem with the NRA and respect it? One could argue that that organizations acts in a manner traitorously to the people in this country when they lobby to stifle gun control. They are no less a danger to the people who get shot in this country than, say, the evil Soviet empire was.   More innocent, non-military Americans have died, essentially at the hands of the NRA and its supporters and paid stooges in legislatures than at the hands of  so-called US enemies like North Korea.

I really hope that Biden’s Task Force does not stop at proposing half-assed measures.  We need to go for more, to actually have a meaningful, rational effort at halting this problem over time. Will we demand this?  Will we buy into the empty arguments of gun advocates?  Will we continue to see our country slide further into a decline that started a little over 30 years ago?

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