Four themes we've seen again, and again, and again, and again.
I live in China, where the 2nd Amendment (among many other US rights) has no jurisdiction.
I vividly remember the day of the Sandy Hook attack. I was reading Shanghai Daily, the local English language newspaper. Of course the school attack was the headline. As I turned the page to read the continuation of the article, I got confused. What had been a story of a terrible shooting in the US became a story of a school attack in western China.
It turned out that there were two different school attacks the same day. In the US, where a semi-automatic rifle was used, the death of a classroom's worth of students and adults. In China, where it was a knife attack, 4 people had to have their injuries examined at a hospital but no one was seriously hurt, much less died. It was as if someone was running an experiment to let us see the effect of a single variable on the outcome.
Many Americans certainly love guns. And a majority of Americans deeply love cars. But somehow we all accept that our access to cars come with severe limitations. I need to have a valid driver's license and insurance to legally operate a car. There are strict laws limiting where and how I can take and use my car. If I violate the driving laws, I face immediate arrest. All of this is true, despite the fact that a car really does confer a very real freedom: that of movement. But state limitations on our driving are not controversial or politically sensitive at all.
The reform I would love to see explored is to apply some of the same "personal responsibility" approach to guns. If I want a car, I have to carry insurance against the possibility that my vehicle may harm someone, since it is big, heavy, and dangerous if it hits you. This is true even if I am a very safe driver and have never been involved in a crash or other violation of driving law.
If I want a gun, it seems reasonable that I should also carry insurance on that, since it is similarly dangerous, even if I intend to use it safely. Requiring insurance doesn't impair one's "right" to a gun, but it does provide a structure for incentivizing safety and would encourage people to be thoughtful about how many guns they owned, and how carefully these guns are kept. It would also create a financial system to help pay for the carnage that does occur. And insurance companies would have an incentive to lobby for greater safety, with all the influence they have shown in other areas of policy.
Americans are truly irrational about firearms. I recently had a conversation with a co-worker who is a good friend. He said that he came from a long line of responsible, safe gun users, who loved to go hunting and never hurt anyone with their weapons. A few minutes later, he noted that his stepfather, grandfather, and uncle had all died of suicide by gun. He did not notice any contradiction.
A couple of decades ago, Big Tobacco seemed invincible. It's amazing that we all finally acknowledged that secondhand smoke was a hazard and banned smoking in restaurants, airplanes, and so on. Few would argue that a smoker's "right" to puff poison into his lungs is violated by requiring that he not share it with everyone one else having dinner that night at McDonalds. What will it take us to get to a similar point with guns?
I received an email from an old friend who after noting that his son lives in San Antonio and is familiar with Uvalde, TX said that, for him, this tragedy was "close to home." He's right. If we have ever loved anyone--children, spouse, friend, cheer leader in high school--the grief is at hand, close by.
It will be 10 years come December since I was sitting in the barber chair in Colchester, CT watching the news while getting a haircut. The breaking news came from Newtown, Sandy Hook. My daughter had written an essay on the Columbine massacre for school earlier that year, or the year before. I'm old.
But not old enough not to be angry with politicians willing to continually sacrifice our citizens, our loved ones, to a Yahoo conception of unencumbered personal freedom. What else is it? What would you give up if it meant that your child, your spouse, maybe that cheer leader whose now an elementary school teacher, would not be shot in a classroom, at church or just coming out of Starbucks with a latte? We all accept a little less personal freedom for the general good. The government is supposed to be there to protect our rights and one of those rights is life. Our government is doing a piss poor job when it comes to the right not to get shot especially by a deranged assault weapon toting lunatic.
Mr. Fallows is right. It's just a matter of time before it happens again. Maybe its happening right now in other place that is always too close to home.
IT almost certainly won't do any good but I tweeted McConnell that the blood of these children is on his hands.
I've lived in Sweden and Japan and until then I did not realize what it felt like to live someplace where guns and gun violence were not an everyday concern. It was liberating! Americans don't realize the low-level but constant tension we feel because we must always be cognizant of threats, people in stores with weapons, and the daily news of gun violence and tragedy. We don't even realize the burden we carry with us - until we experience life without it.
What can I do to help end this? I read Frum’s article and will give more money to Mom’s Demand Action. I’ll call my non-voting representative just to feel like I’ve done something. I’ll continue to support opponents of McConnell. But these efforts feel fruitless. I told my 4th grade daughter this morning about the massacre. She told me she will try to run to the corner first and will duck as low as she can.
The 90+% of Americans who support expanded background checks clearly do not support it more than they support other issues; why else would they continue to reelect people like Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, etc.? They click "yes" to a question on a form with a thousand other questions but when they step into the voting booth what is on their mind? Probably the last political attack ad that was paid for by NRA funds.
In the aftermath of mass shootings, the same articles are written, the same quotes are said. Nothing new, nothing changes, and that's because America loves guns more than people. I doubt that will ever change. If you love guns, you must accept the mayhem and death that are an inevitable result. It's silly and naive to think guns can be "controlled" because as long as guns are part of America, murder of innocent people will be part of America.
At times such as these, invariably my first thought is this statement made by a critic of President Andrew Johnson: Forsooth [they] needs must be put aboard a ship of stone, with masts of steel, sails of lead, ropes of iron, the Devil at the helm, the wrath of God for a breeze, and Hell for their destination.
more innocents, more evil; thank you for the fine observations on this sad moment
The Getty Museum, painting: The Massacre of the Innocents, about 1413–1415, Boucicaut Master or workshop (French, active about 1390 - 1430), getty.edu.
"Herod, the king of Judaea, watches as his soldiers slaughter the innocent children of Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus, whom Herod feared would eventually seize his kingdom. According to Boccaccio, 144,000 children were murdered.
" The story of Herod was particularly appropriate for Boccaccio's book, which recounted the tricks that fate can play. Made guardian and defender of Galilee at the age of fifteen, Herod exhibited wisdom beyond his years. He rose through the political ranks to become king, building cities and impressive edifices. Suspicious and greedy, he executed his wife and children for plotting against him. In his old age, he suffered from a gruesome skin disease and a guilty conscience, eventually leading him to attempt suicide unsuccessfully with a sword."
Oh my God. Just last week (after Jim's article on the Buffalo racist terrorist attack) I mentioned Jim's years-old article "there will be many more gun tragedies like this". Sure enough, it never stops.
"What are we doing?"--Senator Chris Murphy
"Cashing NRA checks."--Senator Mitch McConnell
I could not agree more.
Some credit is due to Justice Scalia and his Heller opinion. Prior to Heller, it was not at all clear that the Second Amendment was intended to create an individual right to gun ownership. After Heller, the gun Lobby claims a constitutional right to own an AR-15.
I find it impossible to respond rationally to this madness. I tip my hat to Mr. Fallows to write cogently, all too often, on this topic. Part of me wants to try harder to work for gun safety. Part of me wants to just ban the cursed things. And part of me just wants to give in to cynicism and say it’s clearly what we as a nation want to happen—an occasional culling of those with poor reflexes, those people who can’t duck fast enough, a reduction of the surplus population. Sometimes I just want to hear a politician say, “Only 19? That guy ain’t a good shot. Aiming for kids you ought to have been able to hit more than 19.”
Honestly, no exaggeration, retiring to Portugal sounds better and better all the time. Between the gun nuts, and the racists, and the Christofascists, and the arm chair authoritarians on the Supreme Court, I’m pretty near finished with this place.
I have no words.
Reading in this excellent post about Mitch McConnell, I thought his blockage of even the most basic reforms must be really about “follow the money.” It’s hard for me to het it through my head that money could work it’s way into our political system and warp minds and harden hearts to the extent it has. It’s a disease.