Gun mas­sacres won’t stop un­til vot­ers de­mand ac­tion

The Progress-Index - - OPINION -

In the im­me­di­ate after­math of a mass shoot­ing in Amer­ica, the usual re­sponse is twofold: Mourn the vic­tims and wait for the facts. It’s get­ting in­creas­ingly hard to jus­tify the sec­ond.

In other realms of public de­bate, the facts can be used to guide an anal­y­sis of any pro­posed pol­icy re­sponse. The prob­lem is that dis­pas­sion­ate anal­y­sis of gun-safety laws, no mat­ter how long de­layed, never pen­e­trates the panic room in which politi­cians hide out from their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

After a de­ranged young man used his mother’s read­ily ac­ces­si­ble firearms in 2012 to shoot school­child­ren and ed­u­ca­tors in New­town, Con­necti­cut, is­sues such as proper gun stor­age and the chal­lenges of bal­anc­ing le­gal gun rights and men­tal health risks were fright­en­ingly ob­vi­ous. Noth­ing hap­pened in Congress.

In­stead, the gun lobby and the ex­trem­ist move­ment it has long nur­tured went on a leg­isla­tive ram­page through con­ser­va­tive states — push­ing for guns in churches, in bars, on play­grounds, and on cam­pus, con­cealed and open. Right now, House Repub­li­cans are fo­cused on leg­is­la­tion to make crime more con­ve­nient by end­ing reg­u­la­tions on si­lencers and en­abling con­cealed guns to be car­ried in places where they are ex­pressly un­wanted, and by peo­ple with no train­ing or back­ground check.

With each mas­sacre — from a church in Charleston, South Carolina, to a club in Or­lando, Florida — and with each pointless, pre­ventable shoot­ing in which a child picks up a loaded firearm left by a reck­less adult, the gun lobby and its cul­ture war­riors is­sue the same sick call: to counter the ef­fect of too many guns with a rash of more guns, and fewer re­stric­tions on us­ing them. In Las Ve­gas, one of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion’s fa­vorite max­ims — the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun — was ex­posed yet again as not just false but trag­i­cally ab­surd.

If the gun de­bate in the U.S. ap­pears stalled, it is be­cause ar­gu­ment in the ab­sence of rea­son and facts is cir­cu­lar. Thus a White House spokes­woman for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who pre­vi­ously called him­self the NRA’s “true friend,” said that it’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate to dis­cuss reme­dies to gun vi­o­lence so soon after a mass in­ci­dence of gun vi­o­lence.

There are le­git­i­mate dis­putes about the scope of the Sec­ond Amend­ment, the ef­fi­cacy of spe­cific gun reg­u­la­tions and the right to self-pro­tec­tion. None of these is de­bated in Congress, and few in state­houses, be­cause too many politi­cians subscribe to apho­risms and clap­trap in lieu of an hon­est reck­on­ing that more guns, and less reg­u­la­tion, is a recipe for may­hem. This cy­cle of pre­ventable vi­o­lence and pointless de­bate will not end un­til more po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, and re­spon­si­ble gun own­ers, ac­knowl­edge the ob­vi­ous: that sen­si­ble re­stric­tions on gun pos­ses­sion and use are both con­sti­tu­tional and nec­es­sary.

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