…But that doesn’t mean getting there is easy.
We are in the throes of what miserable leadership provides and it is that chasm that divides us and leaves us in the position we’re in where we believe that no matter how shocking the violence, there’s nothing to be done; that at some point we’ll all face the spectre of being publicly murdered by the angry and aggrieved whether at church, the movies, a concert, or the store.
That is the motive that drives these shooters, the rest is ephemera.
The most direct way to prevent gun violence is to remove guns from public and private life, but guns are as American as baseball and apple pie, perhaps even more so; they are interwoven into our history and our psyche, integral to who we are, that we have the right to defend ourselves and our way of life; the foundation of the Second Amendment. That its original intent, the constitutionality of formal state militias to check federal power, is obsolete is immaterial. Fear of the government continues to be pervasive to a great number of Americans and while the idea that they will rise up in mass to fend off a highly and technically armed military, not to mention the continual move to militarize the police, is dubious at best, it doesn’t mitigate that fear.
That individuals and organizations exploit that for material and monetary gain is also very American. Whatever you may think of the NRA, it is very effective in playing to the belief that without their continued vigilance, the rapacious and intrusive government will take our only true physical and symbolic means of fighting back; that what little say and influence we still have will disappear leaving us helpless before the machine of the wealthy and powerful. It’s important to understand that first and foremost because it is the basis of our inaction and the justification of the entropy we find in trying to get a grip on the means to halt the gun violence plaguing our society. That bad actors or terrorists will exploit that is not new news.
In essence, the only way for people to give up their guns is to get them to the point where they feel they no longer need to possess them. That they believe in the ability of the government, both local, state, and federal to protect and defend, yet not stifle and oppress, where they believe they are truly represented, which many don’t believe in this day and age.
That brings us back to leadership or the lack thereof.
It’s not just the ability to raise money or motivate the partisans in your camp; it’s articulating a vision that applies to everyone, it’s the ability to acquire consensus and compromise, it’s the willingness to listen and understand multiple points of view, it’s seeing the blessings of diversity, for America is nothing if not diverse, and recognizing and communicating that that doesn’t mean conformity to one side or the other; that we can be different yet part of a bigger better whole. And it is recognizing the good and the bad of who we are, and who we have been, using that constructively to build the country that we all can believe in.
I can dream.
Concerning firearms, something to consider:
While the Second Amendment has been used to confer a right to private ownership, it has not always been so and because of the wording of the amendment it can and probably will be forever at the mercy of the politics of any particular time. This explains periodic efforts to change or repeal the Amendment. Also, it says nothing about the quality or quantity of firearms one may possess, again leaving it to the mercy of future politicians. Conceivably, gun ownership could be limited to one musket or pistol per individual or family and still meet the meaning and intent of the amendment.
A few practical options (though they may not be popular):
Restrict high powered military styled firearms capable of carrying large magazines and rapid fire to armories, which in turn would be responsible for security and inventory. This is what the military does. If you want to run around and channel your inner John Rambo, go nuts, just do it where it’s safe for everyone.
It’s been noted that had the Vegas shooter been a Muslim it is quite possible that the FBI would have been alerted given the number of weapons and activities prior to the shooting. If so then expand surveillance to include all of us. Given the expansiveness provided to anti-terrorist laws, no actual changes would need to be made. After the bombing in Oklahoma City the purchase of fertilizers in any quantity became more difficult as a result. I’m sure many legitimate users were not happy, as would those who have a fondness for building an arsenal, but I doubt either are eager to be blown up or shot.
As a final thought, we really need to face up to why we resort to gun violence as a nation. While mass shooting are horrific, which again is the motive, the vast majority of gun deaths and injuries are small scale that happen between people who know each other, family, friends, coworkers, etc. Rarely is it jihad or anything that would generate headlines or apoplectic responses; it ‘s the depressing understanding that it is us killing each other. We need to own up to this whether we want to or not. It’s no different that finally coming to terms with our other addictions, opioids being an example. It might also be time to talk honestly about how we fall so easy to gun worship without the attending understanding that firearms are deadly force and that requires a level of responsibility that bats, hammers, and axes do not. Firearms are ubiquitous in entertainment across the board from movies, TV, video games; you name it, but like sex, unintended consequences rarely, if ever, come up.
The question is this: how many intended or unintended deaths must we endure before we face ourselves and what we do to one another.