As a nation, we are continuing to mourn the deaths of four Marines and a sailor, who were shot by Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez in Chattanooga, Tennessee last week. Seven days later, another lone gunman, John Russell Houser, opened fire in a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater, killing two women and injuring nine others, before taking his life.
If one reads or watches the news, one is familiar with news of various types of shootings throughout the United States. There are accidental shootings (sometimes self-inflicted a la Jose Canseco; sometimes ending the lives of family members or close friends tragically), gang-related shootings (think Chicago, D.C., Baltimore, L.A.), domestic violence shootings, workplace shootings, targeted shootings (motivated by personal grudge, political stance, etc.), road-rage shootings, hate-crime shootings, terrorist shootings, and school shootings, just to name a few. With the exception of an accidental shooting, any one of those shootings may be termed a mass shooting depending upon the number of victims injured or killed.
As the number of untimely and unnecessary shooting deaths increase, I find remorse fleeting and outrage over the circumstances wasted, as the expected script is followed. You know what I’m referring to–immediately after news of the shooting, the pro-gun lobby expresses condolences to victim families; POTUS does the same and expresses the need for responsible gun ownership; the pro-gun lobby chastises POTUS as this is a time of mourning, praying and healing, not a time to discuss gun control legislation. Let’s call a spade a spade–for members of the pro-gun lobby, there will never be a good time to discuss gun control measures.
Last week, in the wake of the shooting of our servicemembers, I was taken aback by a Facebook post decrying those urging responsible gun ownership legislation. You know–the basics–background checks, waiting periods, safety classes. Rather, the post encouraged others to embrace their second amendment right and carry a firearm. The ugly truth is that no matter how many shooting deaths occur in the United States, the pro-gun lobby will fight any measure that seeks to control gun ownership. Indeed, to them, to do otherwise would be to cede a constitutional right. (Let’s put aside the fact that the original intent of the second amendment was not to arm Joe and Josie Citizen, but was to ensure that those who were part of a militia could be armed. Indeed, the presence of the amendment itself indicates that the founders’ contemplated government had the ability–and authority–to restrict the citizenry’s right to bear arms.)
According to the pro-gun lobby, they are without responsibility for deaths caused by guns. We hear the oft quoted mantra, “Guns don’t kill, people do.” To gun enthusiasts, it is wholly irrelevant that the person who pulled the trigger was a toddler, was ignorant regarding gun safety, had a criminal history or was known to have a mental illness. Indeed, if it were deemed relevant they would be supporting legislation requiring mandatory background checks and required safety courses as a condition of gun ownership. Instead, they argue that the information could be used as a gun registry and that any restriction on gun ownership violates their rights. (Yes, the pro-gun lobby effectively uses fearmongering to leverage its position. Indeed, gun enthusiasts appear to be quite a fearful group despite all the fire power they wield–their fears include gun registries, running out of ammunition, being banned from purchasing assault rifles, and restrictions on the number of firearms owned.)
In high-profile shooting cases, oftentimes, once the killer has been identified and his (or her, but most often his) motive has been disclosed, the pro-gun lobby seeks to distinguish their ilk from the Killer. He was mentally ill. He was radicalized. He had a criminal history. He was a lone wolf. In doing so, they spin the story to ensure that the Killer was not like you and me; he was irretrievably broken before he managed to get a hold of a gun. Distinguishing the Killer from Joe and Josie Citizen is an attempt to lessen the citizenry’s fear of guns. The theory is that the Killer would have found a gun even if the law required him to undergo a background check or mandated a safety course, because he was a criminal, mentally ill or really, really motivated. (Yes, this is where the drug analogy gets used–drugs are illegal, but people still use them. While the statement is accurate, those who use drugs are aware that the purchasing, sale and/or use of certain drugs are illegal and know that if they are caught using, buying or selling illicit drugs, they will face the consequences. That fact alone deters many from trying and/or using drugs. Think about your kids; think about your friend’s children; think about your children’s friends.)
So what’s the point? The point is that the pro-gun lobby is not sorry about the spate of shooting deaths. How could they be? They push an agenda that allows the sale of firearms to be without meaningful restrictions or basic safety requirements. They don’t support restricting the nature, type or number of firearms sold or purchased by Joe and Josie Citizen. Want 100 assault rifles? Fine. Want to purchase extended ammunition clips? Fine. They don’t ask why. And they don’t want to know why. That way, a Dylann Roof, a James Holmes, or a Seung-Hui Cho easily is able to obtain a firearm (or several) and plenty of ammunition in order to execute his carefully crafted deadly plan.
To me, it seems wholly unreasonable. Firearms are inherently dangerous. A firearm’s sole purpose is to injure or kill. But guns aren’t regulated as such. Indeed, they aren’t even regulated like drivers of vehicles are–tested and licensed. Yes, there is a state registry of drivers, yet most of us still drive. And vehicles aren’t even designed to kill. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge the unfortunate fact that shooting deaths will continue in large part because the pro-gun lobby continues to fight for the free flow of firearms. Ironically, while the circumstances (and the Killer) of the next tragic shooting may be distinguished from all prior shootings (and killers), each shooting–be it a mass shooting, a copycat shooting, an accidental shooting, a school shooting, or any other type of shooting–shares one simple undeniable truth: the shooting would not have occurred without a firearm.
Clearly, guns kill.
Let’s reclaim our country.