Now's the Time to Talk About It
There's been yet another mass shooting in America. A school in Florida this time, and we can basically guess the line for line rhetoric at this point. People online will continue to yell at each other about gun control vs mental illness, and everyone will go straight to the rafters with their version of a solution. One side will say that we should ban all guns, the other will say that we need more guns, and nothing will be any different when this happens again in the very near future.
But the most egregious affront to an answer about the epidemic of gun violence in the US, tends to come from the lawmakers themselves. I'm of course, referring to the absolutely worthless platitude of 'thoughts and prayers.' While it's easy for a lot of people to wrap our heads around why the 'prayers' portion hasn't been terribly effective, the notion that politicians are giving this matter any of their 'thoughts' is just laughable.
While the American populous is desperate for our elected officials to take some kind of action that would make our nation a world leader in something other than shooting deaths and mass incarceration, we're told that it isn't the time to discuss such things. These feckless politicians and their sycophantic pundits, clutch their pearls at the absence of decorum involved in discussing these horrific displays of violence right after they happen. How dare we!
The problem with waiting an acceptable amount of time to even talk about gun violence (which to my knowledge has yet to be determined), is that we can hardly catch our breath between mass shootings. We consistently average a mass shooting (commonly defined as four or more victims) every two days in America. That's in a light year. Hell, most of them don't even get coverage at this point. The nerve is always raw. There's always a group of families grieving over the loss of a loved one taken by a madman's bullet. There's always a devastated mother draped over her child's tiny coffin, prostrate with overwhelming despair. There's never a comfortable time to talk about unarmed people being gunned down, but something has got to change.
So, let's talk about it. Guns are a religion in America. There's a fanaticism around the Second Amendment in this country, and it makes a solution far less simple than it would be in a place that has a tepid interest in firearms. Simply trying to ban all guns is the kind of thing that's gonna make Texas try to secede again. Seriously. I live in San Antonio, and I can tell you that even Prius drivers have gun racks down here.
In addition to obsessive gun culture, there's also a matter of sheer volume. It's not completely clear how many guns there are in the US, but you'd be hard pressed to find an estimate that doesn't have figures rivaling those of the population itself. How do you find weapons that no one even knows exist?
These are just some of the many things that we can't even begin to think about without an open market of ideas and frank discussion.
Then there's the idea of arming teachers. This has to be a joke. We can't even seem to let them write pencils off on their taxes, and now we're going to train and arm them? Get serious.
On to mental health. This has been a rhetorical go-to for the gun lobby for decades. The idea being that guns are fine, but mentally ill people should be kept away from them. While most people can easily agree with that sentiment, our policies reflect a wholly different idea. In February, Trump overturned an already impotent Obama-era rule that was designed to make it harder for mentally ill people to legally purchase firearms.
Another thing that many people may not know is that the background check that's run when you buy a gun is usually not a federal one. If you're convicted of a felony in Connecticut, you can probably buy an AR-15 in Oklahoma without anyone knowing the difference. The personality test that I took to get a table waiting job at Applebee's when I was 19 was more rigorous than anything I've ever filled out to buy a gun.
Frankly, I don't know what the answer is, but you probably don't either. The point of all of this is to demonstrate that it is absolutely time to talk about all of these issues. Everything from lobbyists treating democracy like an auction, to the accessibility of legal guns to just about anyone with the money to buy them, needs to be revisited. We need to get uncomfortable. We need to get pissed off. We need to rally and fight and listen to those with opposing ideas, offering up an open mind in the interest of not having bullets running through school kids and bouncing off of chalkboards anymore.
It's time to talk.