They’ll tell you it’s not the guns. They’ll tell you guns don’t kill people, people kill people. They’ll say it’s a mental health issue. They’ll say it’s a failure of law enforcement. They’ll say it’s a lack of school security, the pernicious influence of violent video games, the godlessness of secularism, a failure of parenting. They’ll even go so far as to blame you, me, all of us—to assert that if only we’d been paying more attention, if only we’d been more responsible, we’d have seen the warning signs and alerted the authorities, thereby preventing the carnage. And then, as if to emphasize how little they respect you—as if to plant on your lawn a blinking neon sign with the words “You Are Too Stupid to Figure Out the Insanity of What We’re About to Say”—they’ll insist that the problem is not the guns but the lack thereof, that if only more people had more guns we’d all be able to shoot our way into a world where only the bad guys lay dead on the floor, a blood-soaked nirvana achieved through the collective might of our righteous AR-15s.
They’ve been saying all of this, and more, for years, but most of us know better. Most of us know that while the etiology of the ever-widening epidemic of gun violence in the United States is complex, nevertheless, no degree of complexity obfuscates the fact that not one episode of gun violence, here in America or anywhere else, has ever occurred without the involvement of one common element:
The Canadians know this, as do the Australians, the Japanese, and most other western, democratic, industrialized societies, where strict gun laws just happen to coincide with dramatically lower incidents of gun violence. It stands to reason, of course—stricter gun laws should, and do, result in less gun violence, and even the Second Amendment to the US Constitution recognizes the need for arms to be “well regulated”—but on the issue of gun violence, reason long ago ceased to be a motivating force for our lawmakers. Instead, shielded (or threatened) by the ingenious but disingenuous blame-shifting and campaign spending of the gun industry and its lobby, our elected officials, opting for muddlement over reason, have prioritized their own job security over the public’s welfare, and in so doing have, in effect, promoted death over life.
It is, therefore, urgently incumbent on us—on We, the People—to restore reason to our legislative processes. We must do this with our voices, by participating in rallies and protests. We must do this with our dollars, by donating meaningfully to groups, organizations, and politicians working diligently and with dedication to advance clear, sensible, effective gun control legislation. And we must do this with our votes, by turning out in numbers vast and powerful enough to replace the tethered political ninnies of the gun lobby with courageous representatives who will honor a mandate of attacking gun violence at its most basic and obvious core.
The one common factor in each and every gun death is not mental illness. It’s not poor security. It’s not video games or movies or poor parenting or inattentiveness or bad cellphone reception or tight shoes or long lines at the post office.
It’s the guns.
Author’s note: I write this post not because I live just a few miles down the road from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, and not because my son, daughter, daughter-in-law, nephews, niece, and the countless children of countless friends are all Douglas grads. Indeed, I’ve written on the topic of our desperate need for strict gun laws many times before (see, for instance, here and here). Still, I’d be less than candid if I did not admit and disclose that the immediacy of this past week’s events have added, for me, yet another layer of hurt and urgency to an already critical topic. To those readers whose local communities have never known such tragedy, please accept my earnest hope that you forever remain spared of such proximate sorrow.