Saturday, July 21, 2012

May We Finally Talk About Gun Violence?

Yesterday, I was trying to make sense of what happened. Today, there's still so much that we don't know... No matter how much we're seeing on TV. (Though if you want the latest news along with local perspectives, The Denver Post is a good place to go.)

This will likely be a somber weekend. And really, why shouldn't it be? 12 people are dead, and another 58 have been injured. The entire State of Colorado is in shock now. Well, actually the entire nation is now in shock.

Yet just because we're mourning these losses, should we ignore the serious public policy failings that probably led to this? And can we really be all that surprised that this happened? Bill Moyers and Michael Winship argue at Salon that we shouldn't. And I see where they're coming from.

It's become so easy in most parts of this country (Nevada included) to purchase not just guns, but the very assault weapons that are DESIGNED to kill masses of people. As we've discussed before, it's been easier to buy guns than to access affordable mental health care in most states. There's something seriously wrong with that.

Yesterday, Adam Gopnik wrote a New Yorker blog that just blurted the painfully obvious.

The truth is made worse by the reality that no one—really no one—anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life. That includes the President, whose consoling message managed to avoid the issue of why these killings take place. Of course, we don’t know, and perhaps never will, what exactly “made him” do what he did; but we know how he did it. Those who fight for the right of every madman and every criminal to have as many people-killing weapons as they want share moral responsibility for what happened last night—as they will when it happens again. And it will happen again. [...]

But nothing changes: the blood lobby still blares out its certainties, including the pretense that the Second Amendment—despite the clear grammar of its first sentence—is designed not to protect citizen militias but to make sure that no lunatic goes unarmed. Make sure that guns designed for no reason save to kill people are freely available to anyone who wants one—and that is, and remains, the essential American condition—and then be shocked when children are killed. For all the good work the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence tries to do, nothing changes. On the last episode of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” Jeff Daniels’s character, in a scene set shortly before the Gabrielle Giffords gun massacre, was thought to display political courage by showing, accurately enough, that it’s a lie to say that Barack Obama is in any way in favor of gun control. This was said in Obama’s defense.

Only in America. Every country has, along with its core civilities and traditions, some kind of inner madness, a belief so irrational that even death and destruction cannot alter it. In Europe not long ago it was the belief that “honor” of the nation was so important that any insult to it had to be avenged by millions of lives. In America, it has been, for so long now, the belief that guns designed to kill people indifferently and in great numbers can be widely available and not have it end with people being killed, indifferently and in great numbers. The argument has gotten dully repetitive: How does one argue with someone convinced that the routine massacre of our children is the price we must pay for our freedom to have guns, or rather to have guns that make us feel free? You can only shake your head and maybe cry a little. “Gun Crazy” is the title of one the best films about the American romance with violence. And gun-crazy we remain.

But really, does it have to be this way? Melissa Harris Perry asked this on MSNBC last night. Isn't this the right time to finally discuss our problem of gun violence and what we can do to lessen it?

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Frankly, I don't think we can afford to keep avoiding this subject. And I don't think it's fair to dismiss all gun safety advocates as "nanny state socialists who want to ban hunting". That's actually not what we're talking about.

Rather, we're asking how logical it is that instruments intended for mass murder are so readily available. And does it make sense that nearly anyone and everyone can access these instruments intended for mass murder? So when will we finally be allowed to have a rational discussion on improving gun safety?

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