Yes, We Should Keep Talking about Our Gun Laws

When an event like the mass shooting in Colorado happens, it's a fair bet that people on every side will take the opportunity to say, "See? This just reinforces what we've been telling you all along." But that's easier for some than others. I looked around some conservative web sites today to see what their reaction was, and much of it ran to this: Awful liberals are going to use this to push their anti-gun agenda, and they should be ashamed of themselves (see here or here). But is there really anything wrong with taking the events that occur in our country, even horrible ones, and making the connections to our policy and political choices? Isn't that what people who write about politics are supposed to do?

Obviously, making those connections can be done in ways that are crass and inappropriate. But so can a discussion about anything. You can say we should talk about something else out of respect for the victims and their families, but the idea that the families' grief might be lessened one iota if we refrained from discussing gun laws for a week or two is beyond ridiculous.

So here goes. This horrifying event demonstrates, as though we needed any demonstration, how removed from reality so many gun advocates are. When they push laws to allow gun owners to take their weapons anywhere and everywhere, they often paint a picture of a nation of skilled crime-stoppers, ready at a moment's notice to cut down that psychopath before he has a chance to draw his weapon. But this is an absurd fantasy. Colorado is a state with lots and lots of gun owners, and it has a concealed-carry law that allows you to get a permit without too much trouble. We don't know if anyone else in the theater had a gun on them, but even if they had, it probably wouldn't have mattered. Lots of gun owners imagine themselves to be some kind of Jack Bauer figure, who will see an event play out in slow motion while he calmly draws his weapon and delivers one perfectly aimed shot to save all the civilians. But that's not how things work in real life. A mass shooting like this one is chaos. Things don't happen in slow motion, and a few hours at the shooting range don't turn you into Jack Bauer.

I wish I could say "This would never have happened if we had passed Law X." But extremist Republicans and cowardly Democrats have guaranteed that our nation is and will continue for the foreseeable future to be awash in guns, about one for every man, woman, and child in the country. They're easy to get and easy to amass. And if you're angry or mentally ill or plenty of both, you won't have much trouble putting together the arsenal that will enable you to vent your rage in the most spectacular and destructive way imaginable.

Around 30,000 Americans are killed with guns every year (the figure includes murders, suicides, and accidental deaths). Our political system has, in its wisdom, decided that that's an acceptable price to pay for the "freedom" that isn't enjoyed by people in England or France or Japan, where this kind of mass shooting is unknown. When it happens here—as it did last year and the year before that, and as it will next year and the year after that—nobody should act surprised.

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