I haven’t had much to say about the mass murder last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, because I didn’t think I could offer anything different than what lots of other people have already said. But today I have several rebuttals to the gun-lovers who refuse to admit that it’s the weapons that are the problem.
They say that simply owning a gun — even an assault weapon — doesn’t mean someone is going to kill large numbers of people. It’s true that only a very small minority of them will, but the same is true for the violent video games and movies that are again being blamed for turning young people into cold-blooded killers. Yet, despite the fact that they are sold in even larger numbers than guns, only a tiny percentage of people who enjoy that type of entertainment have opened fire on other humans — and when they did, it was with a gun, not a video game console. I’ve never heard of anyone being killed by an attack with a Playstation controller.
Another argument you hear from NRA-types is that the Second Amendment is absolute (if you ignore the vagueness of the word “militia,” of course). They’ll tell you that if you’re an American, you can buy as many guns as you want, with no restrictions, because it’s in the Bill Of Rights. But apparently their logic only applies to that amendment. We also have a First Amendment that guarantees freedom of speech, but it’s certainly not absolute. In all my years in the radio business, there were words I was not allowed to say on the air because of government restrictions. In your workplace, there are consequences to calling the boss an asshole to her face. In a court of law, the judge won’t permit you to stand up in the gallery and start reading “The Instant Pot Cookbook” out loud. We have reasonable restrictions on our constitutionally-guaranteed speech, so why can’t we have them on guns?
Then there’s this argument: if we ban people from buying certain types of weapons, the “bad guys” will still get their hands on them, so why bother? To that, I’d ask why have laws making murder illegal? After all, some “bad guys” will still commit murder, regardless of the law, so why bother? The answer is simple supply and demand: having fewer of those military-style weapons available will make their use less likely.
That’s the goal — reducing the possibility of these mass murders occurring. Think of protecting the stuff in your house. You lock the door on your house when no one’s home in order to deter a burglar from getting in. Since they could simply break a window to gain access, the deadbolt doesn’t keep them completely out, but it makes them think twice about stealing your things. Similarly, a ban on assault weapons, coupled with universal background checks, will lessen the chances of someone using one to ring up such a high body count in a school, or a post office, or a church.
Since I mentioned a church, I’ve heard several loudmouths spout the nonsense that all these school shootings are because we took prayer out of schools. That’s a cause-and-effect relationship for which there is no actual evidence. It would be like claiming that the teen pregnancy rate in America is at its lowest in 50 years (which it is) because we took prayer out of schools (which it’s not). The same goes for our national crime rate. Or the illiteracy rate. Or that people are living longer. The numbers for all of those are better today than they were in 1962, when the Supreme Court ruled that teachers and administrators can’t force students to recite a prayer in school — but there’s no correlation, so quit claiming there is!
By the way, even as an atheist, I know there was probably a huge amount of prayer going on among the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when the gunman opened fire. Those prayers, and lots of thoughts, did nothing to save the victims, as they never do, but they were certainly being said.
Speaking of those students, I’m quite impressed with how many of them have turned the horror of that day into a social movement. Their voices are being heard, echoed in other cities, and getting the attention of the media (and some politicians). While I wonder if they’d get as much time on camera if they were not from a seriously upscale white neighborhood (e.g. if they were African-American or Latino), they have me thinking that this time the push for more restrictions on guns might be different, a la the #MeToo movement.
In that case, there were women complaining for years about their mistreatment by men in the workplace, but little attention was paid until something snapped in our culture. Then, in mere months, power shifted, stories were believed, and the accused were scorned. Could this be a similar turning point in the gun control debate? It didn’t happen after Newton or San Bernardino or Orlando or Las Vegas, but Parkland seems to have ignited something new, a spark that might make the flame burn a little brighter, longer, and stronger.
If it does, students like these will deserve much of the credit. Here are Carly Novell and Delaney Tarr making the case for reforming gun laws on “The Opposition,” a Comedy Central production where Jordan Klepper pretends to be a right-wing TV anchor (in a similar manner to Stephen Colbert’s old show). Carly and Delaney are terrific spokeswomen for the cause, batting back any of Klepper’s snarky questions with their own readily-quotable talking points.
To read my followup to this piece, The NRA Con Game, click here.