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If Not Now, When?

October 17, 2017

The night of October 1, 2017 was marred by the latest and largest mass murder producing shooting spree conducted by one individual in modern American history at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, Nevada. Almost three weeks have passed between that horrific event and the composition of this essay. One of the first statements made by many in the wake of such a tragedy (after the obligatory spouting of platitudes promising prayer for families of the victims and the sharing of their grief) is usually something to the effect that talk of preventing similar incidents in the future is premature. Following in this pattern, the same thing has happened this time. Unlike the last time, the Trump White House was one of the early dispensers of such nonsense.

Since I began writing this blog over five years ago, there have been numerous instances of such events occurring in such disparate locations as public schools, university campuses, movie theaters, supermarkets, baseball parks, churches, holiday parties and now an outdoor concert. Infrequently, such events are terrorist attacks perpetrated by religious zealots, white supremacists and others that end up being lumped into excuses to crack down on radical foreign terrorists. Other times, calls for improved mental health care come to the fore. In this instance, since the perpetrator was a lone individual with no record of problems involving the legal system, no marked political or religious extremism, no online manifesto or suicide note to give us a clue as to his state of mind at the time, we may never know what precipitated this particular massacre.

Longtime advocates of gun control, along with newly converted folks who are often friends and family of victims or survivors of such attacks themselves, naturally seek to urge passage of state, local or national legislation aimed at actually doing something that will actually prevent such acts in the future. Unfortunately, state legislatures and the US Congress are heavily populated by elected officials who are either beholden to the NRA and other groups aligned with the gun manufactures and the other merchants of death or are so threatened by the prospect of having those groups spend money to destroy the political career of anyone voting to restrict their ownership in any way that such concrete legislation is extremely difficult to pass.

The Las Vegas massacre is noteworthy in many ways. The perpetrator, Stephen Paddock, left behind few clues as to the reasoning that went behind the actions he took prior to his attack and subsequent suicide. He did, however, leave behind a hotel room with an arsenal of 23  weapons and ammunition, including guns equipped with gadgetry capable of mimicking fully automatic military assault weapons. A search of his home revealed yet more guns, ammunition and explosives. Apparently,nothing in the man’s possession was acquired or possessed illegally in Nevada. Is there any reason I am unaware of that any one individual needs to possess that kind of firepower? Why are these bump stocks and similar devices even legal, when basically the sole purpose for their existence is to circumvent the federal ban on private ownership of fully automatic weapons with a product that for all intents and purposes serves the same function?

The calls for taking time to thoroughly debate and consider options rather than immediately passing restrictive legislation soon after one of these attacks is nothing other than a tried and true method than the gun lobby has been using for many years to delay and deflect constituent outrage and the terror thus produced for long enough for the furor to die down with minimal or no action until the next attack starts the whole process over again. In the meantime, the gun lobby celebrates increased sales by fear mongering folks into stocking up before the government bans the weapons or makes significant obstacles to keep them out of the hands of new owners likely to use them to kill in the future. There have been laws proposed and bills submitted to deal with this issue in the current Congress, but with GOP dominance in that body and the media coverage already subsiding, expect the issue to die down again just as it did after Gabby Giffords was shot, or the Aurora movie theater was shot up or the GOP baseball team was attacked or Sandy Hill saw its massacre.

Guns don’t kill – people do. But people with guns can kill many more people more quickly than the same people with knives or even ordinary hunting rifles or the sort of handgun that a person might be more likely to use in self-defense than aa AR-15, AK or some other rapid-fire weapon with a high capacity ammunition clip. Legislation trying to nibble away at the edges of the problem has proven ineffective. Those blaming the mental health care industry are strangely silent when it comes to trying to do something to fix that. Hell, they don’t even think people should get ordinary health care as a human right.

When a natural disaster happens, who comes out and says lets be patient, help the victims and not worry a bit about taking further steps in the aftermath to prevent or alleviate the consequences of future occurrences of the same nature? Save your prayers and seemingly well-intentioned platitudes and false expressions of sympathy that ultimately become meaningless due to a failure to even try to arrive at a solution in this country that has been seen in other countries to actually prevent murders without resulting in authoritarian dictatorships. Your or anyone else’s right to own and bear arms does not now nor ever did overrule my right to life and liberty without fear of having someone start spreading gunfire in the mall I’m shopping in or at my son’s school or any number of other places still vulnerable to such attacks. We can never totally eliminate indiscriminate murder of innocent people, but we certainly don’t need to keep making it easier to do on an ever-larger scale by appeasing the greed of the gun manufacturers and the gun nut faction of the NRA.

We need to get off this treadmill of inaction and make changes to our gun laws to alleviate the opportunities for such massacres to take place. We certainly need to oppose the even more radical deregulation of firearms being attempted at both state and federal government levels, such as legalization of silencers, the proliferation of open carry laws and the attempt to force all states to accept concealed carry permits from all other states. The increase in laws mandating that guns be allowed into such places as college campuses and other major public areas do much more to endanger public safety than enhance it. People proposing such legislation should be voted out of office and their campaign contributions refused on that basis. We need fewer, not more, guns in this country. Suicides, accidental shootings and heat of the moment killings (the kind that used to be settled non-fatally – like in bar fights) would definitely diminish if we got away from this notion that everybody needs to carry a gun 24/7.

We need to stop playing the game of the pro-gun lobby and keep the heat on our legislators to more adequately regulate firearms in this country. It’s a sad day when freedom to have the capacity to kill people for little or no reason is seen as more vital to our society than a free press or the right to peacefully protest. The direction we are moving in this regard needs to be reversed as soon as possible. Those favoring increased regulation of guns outnumber those advocating the NRA position on these issues by a large margin, just as the popularity of freedom of speech and the right for peaceful protest far exceeds the opinions President Trump has expressed in his ominous Tweet storms on those topics.

Further Suggested Readings:

Jimmy Kimmel Breaks Down in Tears During Moving Plea for Gun Control

Seth Meyers Dares Republicans in Congress Following Las Vegas Massacre

Fight Against Gun Violence and Demand More Aid for Puerto Rico

Dem. Rep on gun control: ‘If not now, when?’

The gun lobby: See how much your representative gets

Just three percent of adults own half of America’s guns

Mass Shootings: the Military-Entertainment Complex’s Culture of Violence Turns Deadly

The Congress Members Receiving the Most N.R.A. Funding

The GOP’s silence insults the dead

The Disunited States of American Gun Control

The NRA’s power: By the numbers

After Being Shot, Rep. Steve Scalise Still Opposes More Gun Control

Sen. Ed Markey Says Massachusetts Has Become ‘the NRA’s Worst Nightmare’

After deadly mass shooting, White House says it’s "premature" to discuss guns

We Need More Than ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ After Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Massacre

The NRA’s Latest Terrorist Attack on U.S. Soil

Why the majority doesn’t rule on guns

Mass Shootings: the Military-Entertainment Complex’s Culture of Violence Turns Deadly

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  1. I couldn’t agree more.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dreamer9177 permalink

    When it comes to life being threatened by lunatics with guns, it is always the time to have the discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is no sane reason for society to sponsor civilian ownership of weapons for mass slaughter. The second amendment guarantees our freedom argument is literally insane. No one is free when they must worry about being randomly slaughtered by a stranger. The history of the second amendment was to avoid a standing army – a clear failure.

    Liked by 3 people

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