“And wouldn’t that be wonderful,” the eight grader starts in, “for all law-abiding citizens to be unarmed and defenseless at the mercy of criminals, who, by the way, don’t follow laws and will have all the guns they want.”
from: The Benefits of Being an Octopus
written by: Ann Braden
Sky Pony Press, 2018
Two common-sense gun laws stalled in the Senate before the Senators left for their August recess. One is the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which passed the House this past February in a 240 to 190 vote and placed on the Senate calendar in March. If approved, the legislation would require background checks on all firearm purchases—including those made privately online or at gun shows. But that was five months ago.
The other, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019. The House passed it in February, too, (228 to 198) but was tabled in the Senate.
Over 250 mass shootings in the last year including three mass shootings in the last week (Dayton, Ohio; El Paso; and the Garlic Festival Massacre in Gilroy, California) brought our legislators back early. The original schedule had them returning September 9, but a peek at the Senate calendar shows what business they will take up beginning today, August 6. Those two tabled Acts are not listed. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CCAL-116scal-2019-08-06/pdf/CCAL-116scal-2019-08-06.pdf
We Google statistics on mass shootings, we map out locations where they occur, we track gender, age, nationalities of shooters and victims. All those numbers desensitize us, force us lose sight of the actual people, human beings, that are traumatized or killed.
Families change in an instant.
I’ve admitted before that my brother and I, along with the neighbor kids played with toy guns. I like to think we (all) have moved away from that kind of play toward activities that are more co-operative, more sensitive, and more compassionate. I know that’s not true as I move through my day trying to avoid, ignore, divert my attention away from fear while I watch/read/listen to the news. Maybe I’m traumatized, too. Maybe we all are. So what can we do?
Ignoring the news is not a good answer.
Staying engaged can become overwhelming.
Finding a balance between the two is difficult, at best.
It comes down to common sense, which my mom liked to remind me is not common. The causes of gun violence are many. Too many guns. Too few laws. Too much fear, anger, and frustration. Too much unchecked mental illness.
The help for mental illness needs to be as accessible as the help for physical illness. Right now it is not. In addition to the stigma placed on mentally ill people from the society at large, our health care system, such as it is, treats mental illnesses differently, when it addresses it at all.
But fear is not a mental illness. Neither are hatred, anger, or frustration. We need to teach our children (and practice ourselves) self-control, moderation, composure.
Most Americans don’t want to be at war with each other. But these days, it seems as though we are. We are divided on many issues, including gun ownership.
Making sure, as best we can, that only responsible people can own guns is common sense. Outlawing automatic and semi-automatic weapons makes sense, too. Prohibiting the modification of guns to make them work faster and deadlier also feels right.
In the aftermath of the violent acts or acts of domestic terrorism this week, most politicians are refraining from only offering prayers and thoughts of understanding.
At least some are admitting we have a problem. That’s a good first step.
But the rhetoric about condemning racism, bigotry, and white supremacy needs to be more than rhetoric. The talk about common sense gun laws must lead to action. Laws need to be made and enforced.
And the comments of our president? It’s hard for me to trust someone who said yesterday (Monday), “our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” when just three months ago at a rally in Panama City Beach, Florida, the he joked when an audience member shouted “shoot them” in response to his (rhetorical?) question: “But how do you stop with those people?”
He heard the person's comment, chuckled and said, “only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”
What does that even mean except racism, bigotry, and white supremacy are alive and well and living in the White House?
--stay curious! (and tolerant)