Another senseless gun tragedy – this one bigger than the previous. When does it end?
It ends when we as a nation get serious about the situation. Like nearly every problem we have it is primarily a mindset. New gun laws aren’t necessarily going to be the answer unless they are part of that important change.
If you were to run down a list of hot-button issues which inflame the electorate on both sides, gun control would be near the top. The majority of the population favors stricter laws according to most polls, but those who are against new restrictions are much more vocal. Only 10% of the population favors weakening restrictions.
Given this, it may come as a surprise that in recent years laws regulating gun sales and ownership have become considerably less restrictive. This is due to a combination of reasons that start with a large Republican control of 30 state legislatures. Ultimately, however, the main driving force is a Supreme Court ruling which stated that the Second Amendment deals with individual, not militia rights.
Guns. There is currently no more emotional issue in the US and nothing that polarizes more. You’re either in favor of guns or you aren’t, and if you’re in favor of them the ownership of a gun is probably viewed as a fundamental right. There isn’t much room for compromise.
Into this debate we have a nearly constant litany of shootings, sometimes with legal weapons and sometimes not. President Obama has decided to act where he can, more or less working on tightening up the existing background check laws and enforcing them more uniformly and rigorously.
There was a time when gun advocates called for us to “enforce existing laws” rather than write new ones, but even this action is controversial. But it shouldn’t be.
Another terrorist attack by Islamic fundamentalists strikes at a great Western institution. More than fragile human bodies, the target is picked out of revenge and the sense of fear it is supposed to instill. But this time, it was not a seat of power or finance that was hit – it was our values.
Free expression is a central value throughout the western world, only accepted after centuries of struggle and violence. It is something that we hold as a “certain unalienable right” at the core of who we are as a people. What exactly that means, however, has been an important question long before these anti-Western reactionaries committed their despicable act.
The news of George Zimmerman’s acquittal on all charges related to the death of Trayvon Martin bubbled through the sultry summer air. Millions were angry and took to venting themselves on social media, but thankfully not with violence in the streets. Millions were angry at those who were angry, generally claiming that racism works both ways.
There were so many things that fed into how it all went down on Trayvon’s last night on earth. Florida’s horrible gun laws certainly made conviction nearly impossible. They were born of a cultural PTSD endemic in a land wracked by violence that crackles with fight-or-flight adrenaline at the first sign of trouble – a biochemical instinct that sometimes becomes addictive. I’m also sure that once the Sanford cops learned Trayvon was from Miami they were ready to assume the worst about him. But all of that only amplifies and distorts the core problem, that of White Privilege.
White Privilege is generally little more than the benefit of the doubt. But when the volume is turned up and the noise is deafening, only baser senses remain. The simple benefit of the doubt often adrenalizes into violent, destructive action.
Oh say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave
O’er the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?
Not according to Wayne La Pierre of the NRA, it doesn’t. He has a vision of a nation imprisoned and afraid, an America I simply cannot recognize. His call for a new security regime with armed guards posted at every school, every place where the vulnerable cringe with fear from gun violence, has drawn detractors from every corner of the country. That’s only reasonable, of course. But I have to thank him for starkly painting the picture as to exactly where we are going if there is not a change of some kind.
A school in Connecticut, a church in Pennsylvania, a trap set for fireman in New York – every week it seems there is another event or two. The corrosive action of fear creeps in like rust, never sleeping and eating its way gradually to our core. A change must come because this is intolerable. The change, however, must not just be one of law. The change has to be one from deep inside us as a people.