Sunday, February 18, 2018

Turn the corner against gun-culture politics

A 19-year-old drove a killing machine right through a Florida high school the other day, killing 17 and injuring many more.

It just shows you that no matter what traffic laws we have, people will die. So let's all agree to do nothing. It's pointless.

Well, all right. The killer tore through Marjory Stoneman Douglas High with an AR-15, not a Dodge truck. But, hey, what can you do?

After all, he was old enough to drive.

Anyway, why talk about the means by which he killed? He could have used a machete, quoth the AR-15 lobby. He could have used poison gas. He could have detonated a nail bomb.

The 9/11 killers used box cutters, you know, and jet planes.

What was a nation to do then? Nothing, of course.

Take away people's box cutters and only the people with jet planes at their disposal will fly them into skyscrapers.

But, wait. As we recall, the heinous deeds of those attackers caused America to turn itself inside out, to wage two wars, create a new Cabinet department, to change how airports and seaports and surveillance agencies operated.

The 9/11 toll was staggering – 2,996 dead. And yet, behold the yawn over the fact that 15,549 Americans died by gunfire last year and that 1,881 have died at the end of a gun this year. Yes, it's only February.

That makes the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High, and before that inside a prayerful church church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and before that in Las Vegas, and before that in Orlando, less than unusual and more of the usual.

To address gun violence as the threat it is, one that faces every family in America and every community, it calls for a 9/11-style culture shift. It calls for laws that treat gun violence as a national emergency.

Or we could do nothing.

President Trump – what a guy in a time of horror and tragedy. The students of that high school had just had their childhoods and their childhood friends ripped from them, and he was lecturing them, via tweet, that they should have been more alert.

Don't take offense, grieving child. That tweet wasn't really meant for you. It was meant for the National Rifle Association – a signal that "do nothing" will be federal policy on guns until, say, 2020.

Or maybe something will happen sooner if Americans refuse to vote for, in Bob Weiss' words, "gun whore" politicians.

Who is Bob Weiss? He's a California father who lost his daughter Veronika in 2014 when a gunman killed six people and injured 14 near the University of California-Santa Barbara.


He was one for whom those "thoughts and prayers" wafted across the land from politicians bought and sold by the gun lobby.

President Trump last week said that no one should have to endure what Bob Weiss did. Watch Trump do nothing to ensure that.

He and his fellow Republicans, or at least most of them, won't even grab the low fruit of banning the bump stock, the mechanism that enabled Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock to fire off 1,100 rounds before killing himself.

A few decades ago policymakers decided that a culture shift was in order to confront a public health emergency: carnage of the nation's highways.

            Though some said people would just ignore it, in 1973 a national speed limit was enacted. The result? Though many continued to ignore it, highway fatalities declined by 17 percent in one year.

Imagine if that happened with gun violence. That would have meant 2,466 of last year's gun violence victims would be around today to vote out lawmakers and presidents who do nothing.

You can see why the gun lobby wants nothing done.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

1 comment:

PeterDWriter said...

Old buddy John, you know that Trump and Ryan and McConnell and their followers want to do something about this, it's just that "now is not the time" to distract from the grieving of the families of the victims and the survivors of the attack in Parkland. You and I might say BS to this NRA talking point, but there are many people who buy that line. To them I say: If now is not the time to talk about how we failed the students and staff in Parkland, maybe it is the time to talk about Columbine, about Sandy Hook, about Virginia Tech, about Orlando and Vegas, about, about about. In other words, let's beat it into their heads that is about time to quit fronting for the gun lobby's one-track thinking and to begin talking about gun safety, mental health, children's lives and our priorities.