This week has featured a lot of tragedy. And make no mistake, it’s all tragedy. The police who were gunned down in Dallas last night is a tragedy. The killing of unarmed black men is a tragedy. And all we seem to do about any of it is to react with horror.
Now, I don’t believe this notion that the people of this country are as divided as many say. However, it is undeniable that it sure looks that way at times. I am fascinated by the differences in reaction from people on my Facebook page and in my Twitter feed between yesterday, when the big story was two black men senselessly killed by police when they seemingly posed no threat and this morning, in the wake of the tragic targeting and killing of police in Dallas by a sniper. Yesterday, one wave of outrage swarmed over my social media. This morning, another wave of outrage has swarmed over my social media, from a completely different contingent of people. However, no matter how angry and seemingly despondent people get when tragedies like these happen, the saddest part is our seeming inability to do a goddamn thing about it.
If you’re not sickened by ALL horrible tragedies like this, there is something wrong with you. And yet, tragedies like this happen several hundred times per day; we only see the sensational ones on the news. On average, every single day 300 people are shot and about 90 die from their gunshot wounds. The rest are just injured, and many are left with a permanent serious injury that leaves them unable to care for themselves. Most importantly, the families and friends of these people are left with a huge hole in their life that cannot be filled. you don’t see most of those because they’re not sensational enough to warrant news coverage. Of course, even if we did see all of them, would we act any differently? While we react strongly in the moment to tragedies like the ones we see, we don’t actually do anything about these problems.
The families of all of the victims of this week’s most prominent shooting deaths face the loss of someone very important to them. That includes the two black men who were shot by police and the police who were shot and killed last night. It’s a societal problem that must be addressed. All of these people were shot because someone was either pissed off or frightened or both, and the gun was seen as the best way to approach that. For whatever reason, our society has a strain of people in it who see a gun as a solution to a problem, rather than a tool for protection. It’s actually ironic, since the gunloons always claim it is us “gun grabbers” who think the problem is guns when, in fact, it is they who imbue magical powers into firearms, and it is they who believe simply having a gun provides protection. The gunloon contingent always imagine magically taking out their guns and bravely killing all of the bad guys with nary a scratch on them. It’s the product of too many Schwarzenegger movies, I suppose, where big bad white men take “villains” with an AK-47 and take them all out, while they walk away without a nick, even with 10-12 “henchmen” shooting them with the same type of weapon. The fact that such a thing almost never happens doesn’t occur to them because it largely doesn’t matter. Reality doesn’t matter. Americans have a fascination with easy solutions and many people see a gun as an easy solution to a number of problems.
Think about it; the asshole who shot at the cops last night saw picking off police as a solution to whatever problem he saw. Meanwhile, the cops who shot these unarmed black men saw their gun as a solution to their problem, as well. The shooter of Gabby Giffords, the movie theater shooter, and the Orlando shooter all saw a gun as the solution to whatever problems they imagined.
And that attitude is the heart of our gun problem.
Guns used to be seen as tools, much like a rake or a backhoe. A farmer or rancher who needs to shoot the predators who are killing his livestock or doing damage to crops needs that tool. A gunloon who is holed up in his mom’s basement and is afraid to face the world outside most certainly does not. Anyone who is afraid of Black people because they are Black most certainly does not. And yet, gunloons have far-too-easy access to military-style weapons and ammunition that is increasingly lethal; their access to the “tools” that make gunning down 11 police officers from a distance, or to mow down people in a dark night club or a movie theater is no more restricted than the farmer’s access to a shotgun to kill the wolf that is killing his sheep. The law makes no distinction between needs and wants; it treats the idiot who gets a vicarious thrill from firing a weapon exactly the same as the person who actually needs a gun to survive and protect their livelihood.
As a society, we have to do more than react to these situations. We need to do a lot more than “send thoughts and prayers” on Facebook and Twitter or pictures of angels on Instagram. None of this is acceptable. Police officers who are so afraid of Black people that they are more likely to shoot them should not be police officers. Not only should we, the citizens not want them on the police force, but other police should want them off the force, too. I have police officers in my extended family, and they are as sickened by this kind of thing as anyone, but they often seem like the exception. No one should tolerate such things. Even if we can’t convict police of a specific crime, they should lose their jobs because they represent a danger to the community. Likewise, it should bother us all that anyone with a beef against cops can easily walk into a store or respond to a classified ad and buy a weapon that makes picking off police (or anyone else) really easy.
We have to do something about this. And I mean we have to DO something about it. We can’t just “send thoughts and prayers” to the victims of these crimes and then make “income inequality” or “putting up a wall” our top issue. Life is a pretty major issue, and technology has marched on in the gun industry, just as it has in every other industry. Just as all states should have laws against texting, talking or checking Facebook while driving because times have changed and people now have new ways to hurt others, our gun laws also have to reflect current reality. We’re not talking about .38 specials and “Saturday Night Specials” anymore. Now, people who are pissed off at life can walk into a gun shop and buy military-style weapons in a matter of minutes, without anyone even being notified. They can buy as much ammunition as they can afford, and no one is ever notified of that, either. No one finds out they have it until police are investigating a tragedy.
It’s understandable that police are on edge; I get that. Every time they walk up to a car, they don’t know if the person in that car has a gun and is planning to shoot them. That much adrenaline has to screw with your system. But that is no excuse for killing someone who is already subdued and/or compliant. And like I said, one reason they are so tense is because anyone can easily get a gun and point it at them. We have two problems that must be dealt with, well beyond offering thoughts and prayers and declaring your support for victims.
We have to treat this like an urgent situation because it is. Stop putting it on the back burner and claiming we can’t do anything about it. Of course, we can. We have two major political parties in this country; one of them will never pass a gun bill, including one that is supported by 90% of us. The other will happily pass that and more. One party passed an assault weapons ban, the other one let it expire and refuses to revisit it. Yes, there are a few Democrats who are a little too cozy with the NRA, but it’s only a few and if they actually block anything that needs to be passed, we replace them. However, replacing them won’t work if the majority is dead set against any gun control as a matter of problem. We need a government that is willing to address this problem and that rejects the absolutist view of the Second Amendment, in which the right to bear arms is the only unlimited right protected by the Constitution. (We can’t say “fuck” on the radio, but a terrorist can build an arsenal. See the problem?)
Police should not be allowed to kill anyone who is unarmed for any reason. Period. They should not be allowed to treat People of Color differently than white people. They should be constantly trained to respect people and to understand the communities they “protect and serve” and stop acting like authoritarians. Police should know that they work for the community, not the other way around, and their fellow officers should feel safe and secure in reporting corruption, racism, sexism and the like.
On the other hand, we should also protect police. Most of us know that we could never do their job, and we should appreciate them for that. (Appreciate, not worship!) They deal with a lot of shit on our behalf and they have to deal with the worst elements of society so that we don’t have to. One way to protect them would be to make it harder for bad people to get weapons that make it easy to kill police.
Again, gun control isn’t about the guns, it’s about keeping them away from people who shouldn’t have them. I feel bad whenever anyone is killed because I know for a fact that we’re not doing everything we can to prevent it. In fact, we do nothing to prevent it. And that is purely shameful.