So, I wake up this morning to word of the “worst mass shooting in U.S. history,” at a night club in Orlando, Florida, where someone opened fire, killing 50 people and injuring more than 50 others. As far as I know, I didn’t know anyone in that club, but my heart sank.
Worst mass shooting in U.S. history. How the hell can anyone even determine that? I mean, the number of victims, in this case, is greater than most, but I would submit that every time someone is shot, it’s the “worst in history” for their families. Who can forget Sandy Hook, where 26 innocent people were shot, 20 of them babies under 7 and the other 6 teachers? How about the people who, a few years ago, sat down in a theater to watch the new “Batman” movie and were shot and killed for doing so, by a mentally unstable man who was able to amass an arsenal that might have made David Koresh envious? What about the seemingly constant mass shootings in and around college campuses. And don’t forget the shooting here in Tucson, Arizona, when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was targeted by a mentally ill man, who killed nine people and ruined the lives of numerous families. In that case, he was judged too mentally ill to attend classes at Pima Community College, but he had no problem buying a gun.
The investigation of the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub last night is still early, but it’s looking like they’re going to label it “terrorism,” which will surely bring a sigh of relief to many people because, you know, we can stop terrorism; just kill ISIS. Right? Well, here’s a reality check; even if this guy is a terrorist, it’s only one incident; it doesn’t explain the other incidents. We tend to treat these types of incidents as if they’re isolated, but they are anything but.
Last year alone, the people of this country endured 372 mass shooting incidents, defined as four or more people shot in a single incident. That’s more than one per DAY. (Source) So far this year, we are on pace to break that mark, with no end in sight. (Source) Overall, an average of about 300 people are shot per day and 91 people are killed with guns on an average day. We lose nine people under the age of 19 every day to gunshot wounds. There are nearly 12,000 homicides every year, but nearly twice as many people use a gun to commit suicide, as well. Also, nearly twice that many are shot and “only injured,” with injuries ranging from a slight grazing to complete paralysis to needing major medical care to regain at least some semblance of a life back. (Source)
I expect a lot of people to tell me this is not the right time to talk about this. Fuck them. This is exactly the right time. Hundreds of my fellow Americans went into a club last night to have a good time and now their families and friends will never get to see them again. The fact that such a thing doesn’t bother you enough to do something about it points to a problem with you, not me.
And of course, there will be people who will shout, “Second Amendment! Shall Not be infringed!” as some sort of reason why we can’t do anything about it. Fuck them, too. There is absolutely nothing in our Constitution that prevents us from regulating firearms. Even in the infamous case District of Columbia v. Heller, an opinion written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, which established an individual right to keep and bear arms, acknowledged,
“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” (Source)
And I’ve already received a note this morning about this incident, reminding me that the problem is not the guns themselves as if I don’t already know that. The problem isn’t guns. It’s the easy and ready availability of firearms to pretty much anyone who wants one and the resulting prevalence of guns that is the problem. Consider; there are as many guns as people in this country, but only half of all Americans even have one. Meanwhile, there are families with arsenals of more than ten guns and hundreds of rounds of ammo, with no regulations on the books enforcing responsibility on gun owners.
This problem is deceptively easy to solve, too. We just have to create the political will to change things. This is all part of the “Republicanization” of America. This country used to see problems in society and we used to take steps to solve them. With the current version of the GOP in charge and pledging their undying fealty to the NRA, which used to be a run rights and safety organization but which is now just a gun manufacturers’ lobbying group, nothing can change.
About 20 years ago, Australia saw one mass shooting and immediately took steps to rein in their “gun problem,” which was nothing compared to ours. Compare that to our reaction to the shootings of babies and teachers at Sandy Hook, after which Democrats proposed an extremely meager universal background checks bill that the Republicans shot down, even though more than 90 percent of the American people, including most gun owners, supported it. There’s your problem, folks. Get rid of Republicans, and we can start to put a dent into this problem.
We have to start talking about this and we need to start making this a serious issue in every election until there is movement. I don’t expect major movement in one shot, but we should at least be able to study the problem and come up with solutions. Under Republican rule, the CDC is actually forbidden from studying it. Of course, it’s not just the far right that is a problem. When it comes to gun control, PUBs and professional lefties go into full Eeyore mode and throw their hands up. They talk about economic issues and free college and free healthcare, but they turn away when the topic is guns. In a legal structure in which there are virtually no laws designed to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them and no laws to enforce responsibility on gun owners, the only recourse victims of gun violence have left is litigation. To block that avenue is inexcusable. And the candidate they supported without hesitation helped block litigation against gun makers and sellers and reiterated that support when confronted on it. Gun control is much more important than jailing bankers or raising the cap on Social Security. This is life and death for 33,000 people per year. No one expects to reduce that to zero, but large reductions would be nice.
It’s time to change hearts and minds and to put as system of sane gun control into our legal system. And the first step is to make the ideology that believes in unlimited gun rights untenable in our current system. American the Bloody has to become America the Brave, and that can’t happen as long as Republicans have too much power.
Too political? Fuck you. This is a political issue and we have to use politics to solve it.