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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Since When are Guns Laws Not Political?

After the sinking of the Titanic, Congress immediately began forming committees to investigate the tragedy. And by immediately, I mean immediately -- committees were formed before survivors had even reached solid ground. In all, investigations lasted six weeks and eighty-two witnesses were interviewed. As far as I can find, no one complained about congress "politicizing" a tragedy. In fact, I'm sure of it because "politicize" is a made-up weasel word thrown around by spineless modern politicians who want avoid tough debates and hard discussions. It didn't exist back then. But literal-mindedness aside, no one protested that it was unseemly to allow a tremendous human tragedy to spur politicians to take a look at their outdated maritime laws. Why? Because it's a stupid argument, that's why. Ships needed more life boats right away, not later. If your reaction to needless death is to try to prevent further needless death, sitting around waiting for an imaginary "seemly" period of time to pass is idiotic.

A lot of people are thinking like the congress of the Titanic's day. With this post, I include myself in that group. A mass murder in an Aurora, Colorado theater requires action -- not a period of pointlessly sitting on our hands waiting for a politically-correct amount of time to pass. And the reason for immediate action is that the next mass killer is out there now and the next mass killing is around the corner.

The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik spells out the problem:

[N]o 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.


The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country -- Canada, Norway, Britain -- has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do -- as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue. Does anyone even remember any longer last July’s gun massacre, those birthday-party killings in Texas, when an estranged husband murdered his wife and most of her family, leaving six dead?

Think he's overstating things? Follow this link to a timeline of mass killings and see how many you've completely forgotten about. America has such a crisis of gun violence that mass murder is just background noise we've become used to and few politicians are willing to do anything about it. This will happen again -- and again and again and again, unless we stop it.

And now is the time to start working on stopping the next massacre. If that's "politicizing a tragedy," then so be it -- politicize away. What the people making that complaint are really saying is that they don't want to have the debate at a time when they're most likely to lose it, when passions are high and people want more than just justice -- they want safety. The gun lobby (which Gopnik correctly refers to as the "blood lobby") wants to wait until everyone's forgotten this massacre -- like we forget so many -- and people are more likely to buy their bullshit arguments that guns make you safe and lax gun laws aren't a problem. Colorado is a concealed carry state and that got the movie theater audience in Aurora jack squat in terms of safety. But that blood lobby continually misrepresents the Second Amendment and pretends that every lunatic's easy access to an instant death stick is not only a matter of liberty, but a matter of the utmost urgency (no waiting periods ever!).

It's neither. It's a matter of sales. The NRA exists to sell guns. It's not a citizens' lobby, it's not a righteous defender of freedom, it's an industry lobby as greedy and soulless as the tobacco lobby -- another death lobby.

The time has long passed for government to react to these mass killings. "National tragedies are political," writes Adam Serwer (in a post I recommend as much for its prose as its logic). "They're too important not to be." If anything deserves the immediate attention of government, a seemingly endless series of blood-spattered nightmares seems to fit the bill.

Politicize this tragedy. Politicize the living hell out of it. A lot of lives depend on it.


[image source]

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