Friday, December 14, 2012

Something Must Change.

Sorry. I couldn't help it. I just had to say it today.

What happened in Connecticut this morning was tragic. And it was horrific. And yes, it didn't have to happen.

That's what makes the series if events today even more tragic. 18 innocent children are dead, along with at least 8 adults. A small town in Connecticut has been devastated by horrific violence. And it really didn't have to happen. And if we want to prevent future tragedies like this one, then we must act.

You’re not supposed to say this on days like today, but political action is exactly what’s needed. The usual voices will try to shut down the debate by warning against “politicizing” the tragedy. But we should “politicize” it, if by that we mean undertaking a discussion about how our elected officials can act to stop this madness.

Gun violence is one area where something approaching a bipartisan consensus has formed among commentators and observers that reform is imperative, even as the only people who continue to refuse to act are those in a position to actually change things. This time, our public officials —the president included —simply must start an actual policy discussion about the appropriate response to the slaughter caused by the easy availability of guns. Not just a “conversation” about how screwed up our culture is or the usual argument over whether Evil and/or mental illness are the real culprits (as the gun rights advocates tell us) that require addressing. It’s easy access to guns that translates the darkest of human impulses, whatever their cause, into the massacre of innocent children.

Greg Sargent makes a great point here. Even though we've heard plenty of people declare on the cable news channels that "now is not the time" to discuss better gun safety, we just can't do that. How many times have we heard this before when other incidents of mass gun violence occurred? How many more of these must we endure as a nation before we finally take action?

Just this past Tuesday, someone opened fire inside a mall in the Clackamas County suburbs of Portland, Oregon. Two people died, and many more were frightened just as they were doing their Holiday shopping. And then, less than 72 hours after that gruesome act of violence in Oregon, someone else opened fire in an elementary school in Connecticut. And Desert Beacon has a full list of even more mass shootings that occurred just this year. Again, this is truly disgusting. And both events should show us that we can no longer blithely ignore this growing problem of domestic terrorism carried out by easily accessible guns.

While today should be a day to allow those who lost loved ones to grieve, today should also be a day to ponder what happened... And address what's wrong with our gun policies. Here's Salon's Joan Walsh.

Guns in national parks. Guns in church. Guns in schools and day care centers. All over the country, the spaces that used to be gun-free zones are now open to them. According to Mother Jones, in 1995 there were an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. Now there are about 300 million, a 50 percent jump. Yet BuzzFeed found that President Obama only mentioned gun control three times in the last campaign.

It’s not just the NRA who are political villains in this story: the right-wing Koch-funded ALEC has been pushing to weaken gun laws too. In fact, the lame-duck right-wing GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature just passed an ALEC-backed bill allowing concealed loaded guns in schools, churches and day care centers,and abolishing the county panels that controlled concealed-pistol licensing.

After the Aurora, Colo., shootings,in which formerly banned assault weapons were used, even Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper dismissed talk of renewing the federal assault weapons ban. Stricter gun control measures wouldn’t prevent “acts of evil,” Hickenlooper insisted: “If there were no assault weapons available and no this or no that, this guy is going to find something, right?” In fact, the Aurora shooting inspired more gun control legislation, but it went nowhere, as Alex Seitz-Wald reported this week. Only three days ago, formely banned assault weapons were used in the Clackamas, Ore., mall shootings. Will that trigger a new push to restrict and ban assault weapons and their ammunition? Probably not.

But today, a day when children as young as kindergarteners were told to hold hands, close their eyes and walk past scenes of unspeakable carnage –that’s a perfect day to begin a new conversation about what’s wrong with our gun culture. Clearly, we are getting numb to massive gun violence. It’s hardly inappropriate that the murder of at least 18 children, reportedly between the ages of 5 and 10, might shock us out of our numbness and inspire more activism and legislation –and political courage.

Sadly, we as a society have become far too numb to the brutal reality of gun violence. Can that change today? If the events of this week can't, then I don't know what can. For goodness sake, not even elementary schools are immune from this any more! Children were shot dead inside their classroom! If that isn't repulsive, then I don't know what else can be.

Again, today is a day to grieve lost loved ones. And today is a day to share condolences. However, today is also a day to reflect on this metastasizing crisis of rampant mass shootings and out-of-control gun violence. Something must change.

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