Are we crazy?
The Las Vegas death toll has shocked the nation, as all such events do. News channels are full of the usual hunt for information on the assailant, identity of the victims, and examination of the circumstances that made the scene ripe for mass killing.
Politicians will speak of their prayers and the condolences they’ve sent to victims’ families. The president will offer—as best he is capable—sympathy. But despite the dutifully repeated words of on-air journalists that we shall never forget those who died, we will.
We will forget them the way we always do. Politicians, in fear of the National Rifle Association with its deep pockets and gerrymandered districts with their concentration of right wing voters, will go right back to doing what they can to allow the country to be flooded with guns—guns that have no hunting or target practice utility, guns meant only to kill in warfare. The slightest of extra care about gun availability is rejected by hiding behind the 2nd Amendment.
I want to drive as fast as I’d like; my freedom of movement should trump government’s control on my highway speed. I have a Constitutional right to bear arms; so there should be no or minimal government control over the arms with which I choose to exercise my right. And even speaking of controls the way we would about passenger airplane maintenance, restaurant safety, and building codes produces a well-funded frenzy of opposition from the NRA and politicians acting as their apologists and megaphones.
Most of the nations of the world have a higher murder rate (recently 9.63 per 100,000 annually). But in the parts of the world to which we should be compared, viz., Canada, United Kingdom, Central and Western Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, murder rates are below 2.63. Ours is 5.22, twice as high. (These are murder rates, not gun murder rates; making a case that there’s a significant difference would be a hard argument to make. Moreover, these data omit suicides by gun.) We cannot stop murder, we cannot stop violence, we cannot stop gun violence; that we can is not my point. But we can make a far more reasoned, muscular attempt to stop being a nation sick with guns.
The media in the next few days will be full of examining the Las Vegas tragedy—the victims, the blame, and the perpetrator. Yes, there’ll be discussion of gun laws, but we’ve proven we’ve a habit of letting those matters fade. The White House has even commented that this is not the time for politics. Really?
All the data we’ll hear and read about the scene and perpetrator will be interesting, to be sure, but only broad social effects will address the issue, and that means politics. In fact, the concentrated criminal investigation, as imperative as it is for law enforcement officers, when it is the focus of citizens’ attention, actually interferes with demanding and persevering with an honest political resolution. Anyone who maintains that this is not the right time owes the country and future victims an answer. Just when is the right time?