It goes without saying that the man who shot at Republican members of Congress, while they practiced for a charity baseball game, was a disgusting human being; I don't know anyone who would defend what he did. But here's what else was hard to defend: turning a tragedy into more of the same old politics. Almost as if on cue, some of my conservative followers on Twitter, along with several Republican pundits, immediately blamed "the left." Excuse me, but the last time I checked, "the left" didn't shoot any congressmen; one angry loner with an assault rifle did that. (Note to my Republican friends: given all the violence in our society, I strongly doubt that only Democrats are guilty of it; and I also doubt that Republicans spend all their time reading the Bible. Truth be told, there are violent and hateful people from both political parties; so don't be so quick to assign blame.)
There was something else that bothered me about today's senseless violence. It's the fact that it happens so often. Sadly, violent episodes such as workplace shootings, which are often perpetrated by a lone gunman, have become so common that many of these incidents don't even make the national news. We don't always know why these gunmen decide to do it, just like we don't always know what their politics are. Some of these shooters have been mentally ill. Some were religious zealots. Some were just angry about whatever (a boss they hated, the unfairness of life in general). And contrary to internet myth, few of the mass shooters of the past several decades were immigrants: most were born here, and a majority were white males.
But whatever the race or color or ideology of the shooters, we find they all had one thing in common: they all had NO trouble getting guns, whether assault rifles or handguns; and these mass shooters all had NO trouble getting lots of ammunition. But every time some of us try to discuss what could be done to prevent further mass violence, the conversation goes nowhere. Why? In large part because our country and its politics are dominated by a small but influential group of "Second Amendment Absolutists." Encouraged by the National Rifle Association, these are people who believe there should be no limitation on gun ownership, and they reject even the smallest restriction on what they see as their total right. No matter how much gun violence out there, their answer is that more "good guys with guns" are the solution.
Of course, this answer is very beneficial for the NRA, and for the small percentage of gun owners who share the view that more is better: I read one report from 2016 that said only three percent of American adults own half of America's guns. Meanwhile, as soon as anyone dares to ask why the average person really needs assault weapons and high capacity magazines, the Absolutists scream that their rights are under attack. And as soon as any politician dares to question why more and higher-powered weapons are a good thing, the NRA spends its money (and its considerable influence) making sure that politician is defeated in the next election.
No, I am not opposed to gun ownership, and no I am not against the Second Amendment. I am, however, against the current extreme interpretation of it. I have never heard one good reason why anyone other than a member of law enforcement or the military needs an assault rifle. When such weapons were briefly banned, somehow the republic did not fall. Sport shooters continued to compete. Hunters continued to hunt. I agree that banning assault weapons is not a magical cure, but when it was tried, some studies suggested it did reduce certain kinds of violent crimes. (Common sense would dictate that not having access to semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines would result in fewer people get hit by someone attempting a mass shooting.)
But people who love their guns don't want to have a discussion about reducing gun violence. Any time such a discussion begins, it usually ends with both sides being incredibly frustrated. One thing I do know: encouraging more gun ownership is no guarantee that there will be less crime. And another thing I know: unless our politicians begin to show some courage and not bend to the will of the NRA, violent incidents will continue. Pundits will choose sides, accusations will fly, and absolutely nothing will change. Evidently, that's okay with most people, but it's not okay with me. And what about you, dear readers? Is the status quo okay with you? And why is discussing ways to reduce gun violence the conversation we never seem to have?