The story is becoming so common we can almost predict the timeline.
A mass shooting terrorizes a community. The community and country cycle through fear, anger and sadness. News outlets cover the story for several days. Politicians send their thoughts and prayers. Change in our gun laws is bantered around, and vigils are held. The National Rifle Association and its legal and political allies largely remain silent or call for a cooling-off period.
And then … nothing meaningful happens as the news cycle shifts to something else and we get distracted by cat videos on social media or the latest episode of our favorite television show. All the while, the powerful gun lobby tamps down any attempt to legislate a more sane set of policies on firearms.
This is a cycle we must break.
Our laughable, shameful system of gun regulations is propped up only by romanticized and dishonest arguments. It’s always the same set of excuses: the Second Amendment, personal protection, recreational use, fear of a police state, and a general call for freedom.
None of these arguments pass a simple test of logic.
The Second Amendment was written in a very different time when public safety systems were nonexistent and well before automatic weapons were available. The personal protection angle is as impractical as it is glamorized.
Are there some individuals with the experience, training and temperament to successfully engage in self-defense? I’m sure there are. But the average gun owner, thrown into an emergency situation, is more likely to freeze, mishandle their weapon, or injure innocent bystanders than neutralize a live danger.
Recreational use is fine, but why on earth does enjoying sport require loose purchasing and safety standards or massive stockpiles of automatic weapons? The slippery slope argument, preying on fears of totalitarian dictatorships like that of Nazi Germany or a complete ban of guns, is simply a tactic meant to close our minds.
As for freedom, I’d reference Nelson Mandela in saying, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” He was talking about freedom from oppression and discrimination, but the sentiment applies to so much more.
If all residents of a community or country are not free from the terror of gun violence, then the romanticized freedom of gun ownership is a false freedom.
If you are in the pro-gun camp, you are likely thinking at this point, “This urban liberal doesn’t understand me.”
Think again. I grew up in rural Texas in a hunting family and lived my childhood with a gun in my hand. I enjoyed hunting and shooting for sport, but there comes a time when you must think beyond yourself and the insulation of your community about something larger.
It is absolutely irresponsible to continue allowing such easy access to deadly weapons, unthinkable to continue prohibiting research into the causes of gun violence and gutless to continue letting the politically abusive gun industry profit from death.
It is far past time to continue hiding behind falsehoods and political fear. Past time for elected officials to simply mourn publicly and fail to do their job to protect us. And past time to enact strict and smart gun regulations.
The all-or-nothing mentality driving our inaction must end, and Congress, as well as local and state bodies, must step in now. Our elected leaders must cast off their fears and look past the next newscast or election. Nothing less than our freedom is at stake.
Don Kusler is the national director of Americans for Democratic Action, the nation’s oldest progressive advocacy organization. Readers may write him at ADA, 1629 K St. NW, suite 300, Washington, D.C., 20006.