In Chicago, teenager Hadiya Pendleton, who performed at President Obama’s second inauguration was murdered this week by gunfire. In Detroit, nearly 400 largely gun-related criminal homicides were recorded in 2012. In Phoenix, an office-building confrontation has, as of this writing, left one person dead and two injured by gunfire. The gunman is currently at large, and in the meanwhile, U.S. Congress is poised to debate new, nationwide gun policy. Dismally—and perhaps predictably—despite President Obama’s signing of 23 executive orders directly aimed at gun policy, the prospect of comprehensive gun control legislation is widely speculated to fall apart before it even begins.
It is abhorrent that intellectual dishonesty tends to dominate the hand-wringing that goes on with both elected officials in this country as well as much of the general public about evolving our national gun policy into something that’s much more progressive and practical than the hodgepodge of state-by-state statutes that exist now.
Much of the dishonesty is coming from public officials. Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) has yet to definitively say what specific measures—if any—he supports regarding new gun policy, including revisiting a ban on assault rifles. Incidentally, Reid routinely receives a ‘B’ rating by the National Rifle Association’s assessment of sympathetic legislators. He has never being officially endorsed by the NRA, though it has been documented that he has accepted campaign donations from them. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has similarly demurred on saying what he and the Republican House members are willing to embrace on gun policy.
In fairness, however, the dishonesty goes well beyond public officials, and lay squarely with the public in general. For sure, guns are virtually deified in the national mythology shared by many Americans. The Puritan expatriates who originally founded Plymouth Colony; the rebel forces of the original 13 colonies fighting against the British; the pioneers of Western expansion; the “bombs bursting in air” of our national anthem. Indeed, when one takes into account the war campaigns against Native Americans and the forced enslavement of Africans, the gun was perhaps the most potent instrument—not the shovel, the scythe, the saw, the hammer, or even the mighty pen— to be used in the founding of the country and enforcement of its worldview. Then again, this last point isn’t likely to be uplifted in the average Independence Day speech.
Hearing gunfire going on just outside your house means one thing if you live in a rural town or outer-rim suburbia, and the source of the action is Dad or Grandpa (or nowadays, even Mom) teaching Junior how to take out tin cans at a distance with the Winchester (and it certainly helps if your ‘back yard’ is at least a few acres in diameter). Hearing gunfire means something else altogether if you live in an urban neighborhood and the source of the action is one or more knuckleheads with a beef (whether real or imagined) whose first, second and last means of conflict resolution is to shoot and kill the offender—and woe to anyone who stands within the bullet’s travel radius, intended target or no.
There is a spiteful arrogance that informs the attitudes of all those who aren't willing to acknowledge that gun proliferation is a problem at all—or if it is, that only mass-armament is supposedly the only practical solution (essentially the position of NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre). Unfettered escalation of gun manufacturing, gun access—and gun usage—cannot be divorced from being acknowledged as a core component of America’s ongoing gun-related tragedies.
Similarly sinister is the notion that the current conversation about guns should be exclusively about mental health. To the degree that mental health is certainly a major issue worthy of consideration this author feels compelled to point out that political conservatives regularly rail against expansion of health care coverage, ongoing grudges against the Affordable Care Act merely being the most obvious of its manifestations. For decades now, governors and state legislators from both major parties have cut funding to publicly-supported mental health facilities. Prevention resources never seem to be a priority, but building more prisons to house the often mentally-ill perpetrators of violent crime doesn’t seem to cause much a stir.
Where the premise of self-defense is concerned, pragmatism is also lacking. More often than not, the “…from my cold dead hands” coterie offer only an absolutist position that rejects outright any form of gun-restriction legislation whatsoever, based on the premise that an Orwellian nightmare scenario will immediately begin to take place. Whenever anyone mentions the phrase “gun control”, the immediate kneejerk reaction is to assume that this means banning all firearms in all forms and issuing a nationwide confiscation campaign. Ironically, this stance provides a mutual rallying point for rural and suburban survivalists, neo-Nazis, Tea Partiers, youth gangbangers, organized crime, and Afrocentric militants alike. Curious.
This week, some honesty was delivered by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. Both delivered testimony to a Senate subcommittee speaking of pragmatic but firm gun policies. Giffords was gravely wounded in 2011 by a shooter who also took six lives in an abrupt killing spree outside a grocery store in Gifford's district. http://tinyurl.com/bzk9qvo
If the let-the-status-quo-be rationale is to prevail, then it should be declared publicly that Americans are willing to give inanimate, death-dealing constructions of metal, plastic and wood more of an inherent right to exist than, well, the humans who reside here.
As of this writing, it has been roughly six weeks since a one-man shooting spree at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut took the lives of 27 people, including 20 children (the gunman, Adam Lanza, had earlier killed his mother and committed suicide as first responders arrived, bumping up the total body count to 28). In 2001, It took 35 days for the Patriot Act to be signed into law after being introduced less than two weeks after the events of the terror attacks of September 11. Shame on America if it cannot enact national gun reform in the aftermath of the latest, albeit staggered out, mass loss of its citizens.