Look, I’ve said this before. I’ve been saying this and saying this and writing this, and look what’s changed? I wrote virtually this same piece circa Newtown—my school newspaper refused to publish it—and now, look, it’s applicable yet again. How many times? How many times? How long does this go on, how many deaths does it take? What's it going to take--the members of Congress held at gunpoint? Would it be "relevant" then? We’re raising our voices (some of us), we’re screaming, but our voices are weakening. Wake up and smell the gunpowder.
This latest massacre, leaving twelve dead at the Navy Yard, should be an anomaly. It is not. Should this not strike a single chord of unease in our nation? The Navy Yard shooting joins a litany of others: the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, following on the heels of the killings at the Aurora, CO movie theater, plus shootings in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, Tulsa, OK, and Seattle, WA—there should be no doubt that our laws regulating guns (or rather, lack of such laws) are in dire need of reevaluation. Yet this still seems impossible to grasp, and worse, this country is becoming desensitized to gun violence.
The logical reasoning, when an inordinately high number of people are being killed because of gun violence, might appear to be a good incentive for increased regulation of guns.
As predictable as it is unfortunate, the opposite position has already cropped up, pushed by the NRA and its bedfellows: that if we had more guns, this shooting, or that shooting, would not have happened. That if every kindergarten teacher were armed, then kids would not be dying when crazed gunmen entered their schools. Or, more recently, the bad guy triumphed because there were not enough “good guys” with guns.
Failing that, one can always resuscitate the founding fathers and the ever-useful Second Amendment. And oh yes, one does.
With over 30,000 gun-related deaths in the US every year, one might think that adding more guns, with fewer restrictions, into our already violence-saturated culture would only increase this statistic.
Apparently not—our right to kill is always more sacred than our right to live safely. (Safety is becoming more and more of an ironic and vague issue, incidentally…) We’re big advocates of safety—from outside forces, not from each other.
The shooter at the Navy Yard, Aaron Alexis, reportedly struggled with mental illness for years, and said he heard voices. Mental illness is another popular scapegoat for these attacks. Many shootings have been instigated by someone believed to be suffering from mental illness—but is it the condition itself that lets someone buy a gun and stage a massacre, or is it the ease of doing so?
Some may say that if we didn’t have guns, we’d have mass homicides with knives or such, instead. Hmm. Well, conceivably, that’s almost possible. But you don’t find semi-automatic knives tipped with depleted uranium, either.
Why is it so easy for people—deranged, mentally ill, unbalanced, or perfectly normal—to acquire guns? Why did no alarms go off in anyone’s head when the killer from the Aurora movie theater was stockpiling weapons in his apartment? Why, when a background check on Aaron Alexis would have turned up previous firearm-related arrests, no red flags were raised?
This has to stop, and we’ve said it before: it has to stop, it has to stop, it’s terrible, it’s a crime, it’s a tragedy. Yet miraculously, every incident fades from our nation’s mind, and nothing is changed. Last time, with Newtown, Obama seemed shaken, and passionate about taking action. This time, he’s called it a tragedy, but even he admits our “creeping resignation” of this violence-for-all world.
People are reluctant to carry through on promises of stricter gun regulations. They may believe it won’t work, or no measures would pass, anyway, so it’s no use trying. But it isn’t an impossible goal—it just needs to be enacted. In Australia—a close ally to the United States—gun regulations were implemented successfully. From CNN.com:
“New legislation…specifically addressed mass shootings: Rapid-fire rifles and shotguns were banned, gun owner licensing was tightened and remaining firearms were registered to uniform national standards.
In two nationwide, federally funded gun buybacks, plus large-scale voluntary surrenders and state gun amnesties both before and after Port Arthur, Australia collected and destroyed more than a million firearms, perhaps one-third of the national stock. No other nation had attempted anything on this scale.”
Since then, in Australia, the chance of death by gun fell by over 50%, and has stayed there for the past sixteen years. So it is possible.
So why can’t we do it?
The list goes on—
We aren’t willing to. It’s un-American, it’s pointless, it’s an infringement on our rights, it’s not the guns that are the problem, it’s the fault of mental illness, guns make us safer, it’s the liberals’ fault, it’s the liberals trying to take away our rights, it’s the wrong time, what we need is more good guys with guns, don’t you dare touch the sacred Second Amendment…(I’ve even heard the one in which Jim Rubens blames rising numbers of working women for men’s increased violence, guns included.)
And we’re getting used to it. We’re acquiescing. Remember Newtown—public outrage, gun control measures, Obama’s response? Where is that this time? The Senate failed shamefully at gun control. The politicians—some still advocate regulation; it hasn’t entirely disappeared, but it’s somehow gone from the public eye.
This time, hardly an outcry has been raised. The voices I’ve heard seem tired. We’re losing interest, we’re losing hope, we’re losing momentum. As Jon Stewart noted on the Daily Show, if the shooting of at least four people counts as major, there have already been 250 this year. Shouldn’t that garner at least a raised eyebrow, if not an all-out riot?
As I recall, post-Newtown, many news networks seem to be parroting the opinion that immediately after the incident is the wrong time to talk about gun reform. However, waiting too long puts you at risk of your argument being irrelevant.
So according to this, there is no right time. Because we actually don’t want to talk about this. We don’t want to give up our misplaced liberty. The “right to choose” is under attack, but not the right to choose to own a gun, to carry a gun, to shoot one whenever you please, regardless of your character. We don’t want to face what a violent, gun-wielding, homicidal country we have become.
I exaggerate this last sentence. Or do I? But the time is now. The time has been now again and again, and now is always postponed. But there are no excuses when twenty children die, when twelve people die, when anyone dies from our laissez-faire gun laws. The time is never wrong to change for the better.