In time, America may solve its opioid crisis, find political compromise on immigration, keep Social Security solvent, adequately fund Medicaid and Medicare, raise the global rankings of our public schools, feed the millions who still live in poverty and agree that man is negatively affecting the planet’s future.
But America won’t solve its gun problem.
It’s impossible. We’re too entrenched, too politically divided, too beholden to money and politics. We argue over the meaning and intent of the Second Amendment, over the legality of bump stocks and the size of AR-15 magazines, over government’s role in funding mental-health causes, and then we ignore each other. The arguments bore us.
Democrats don’t understand Republicans and their constituents. Republicans don’t understand Democrats and their beliefs. Gun owners and their political opponents might as well speak different languages, one learned from the National Rifle Association, the other from an aversion to bloodshed.
Our attention spans are limited. There’s always a new outrage, a new Trump tweet, a new reason for the left to rise and the right to foam. Today’s it’s guns, tomorrow it’s immigration, this weekend it’s Stormy Daniels, the president’s favorite porn star. And next week: Hillary’s emails!
People have to die, as they did Wednesday in Parkland, Fla., to start a conversation about guns, and even those talks are wrongly criticized as the politicization of tragedy. It’s the height of hypocrisy.
When terrorists used box cutters to take over jetliners, we strengthened cockpit doors. When a terrorist tried to blow up a plane with a shoe bomb, we started X-raying people’s shoes. When terrorists started using cars to run over people on sidewalks, cities began erecting barricades to prevent it.
But guns? Not here, not in America. Nothing moves us — not dead concert-goers in Las Vegas, not dead teachers and students in Florida, not dead nightclub patrons in Orlando, not dead Batman fans in Colorado, not dead church members in South Carolina, not dead first-graders in Connecticut. We’re a bloody nation doomed to bury dead who perish in mass murders committed by gunmen wielding military-grade weapons. That’s our not-so-new normal. That is who we are.
We say we’re a Christian nation, with “In God We Trust” on our currency and a thrice-married Republican president elected with the votes of America’s evangelicals, and yet we’re more concerned with protecting the right to own a semi-automatic rifle than we are protecting the lives of Florida school children or country music fans in Nevada. Election-day support of the NRA’s 5 million members and the weight of an NRA endorsement are addictive, political catnip for the GOP Congress.
Don’t fall for cynical excuses about Democrats wanting to confiscate guns (not true) or the need to arm more teachers (a preposterous idea). This isn’t about pistols for self protection or rifles for deer hunting. More gun deaths in America are caused by suicide than gun violence, a fact rarely acknowledged. Instead, this is about allowing virtually anyone to buy a killing machine and enough ammunition to fill coffins like a war-time soldier.
In Florida, where Wednesday’s bloodbath took place, an 18-year-old can’t legally buy a pistol. But he can legally buy an AR-15 — and did. Floridians have Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s signature to thank for that legislation. There’s also this: Using Columbine as our starting point, more than 150,000 U.S. students from at least 170 schools have experienced an on-campus shooting since 1999, according to research by The Washington Post. That’s today’s America.
Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined countless other members of Congress and took to Twitter: “Just spoke to Broward School Superintendent. Today is that terrible day you pray never comes.” VoteVets, a progressive military veterans organization, responded with scorn: “We know you didn’t serve but the AR-15 recovered is almost identical to what our troops carry today in combat. Maybe you should do something about that besides pray.” Let’s assume those troops know more about military weaponry than the senator.
We know you didn’t serve but the AR-15 recovered is almost identical to what our troops carry today in combat. Maybe you should do something about that besides pray. https://t.co/gLsdfXUuKE— VoteVets (@votevets) February 14, 2018
Americans can’t even agree on the most logical part of this argument — that people with mental illnesses shouldn’t be allowed to buy a gun, be it a handgun or semi-automatic rifle.
In 2016, the Obama administration began strengthening U.S. gun laws by adding people who receive Social Security checks for mental illnesses and those considered unable to manage their financial matters to the national background check database.
Early last year, President Trump signed a bill that removed those regulations.
We are what we are, a bloody, so-called Christian nation that won’t stop sales of semi-automatic weapons, that won’t fully fund mental-health services, that won’t protect laws designed to keep weapons away from the mentally ill, and that considers human life acceptable collateral damage to the individual right of owning a killing machine.