The problem with any sort of discussion about the easy availability of guns in America is that it instantly veers wildly in multiple directions, each with its own code words, mythologies, and irrational fears.
Some honestly believe that a revolution is coming, society is about to collapse, armed gangs will roam the countryside looking to steal what’s dear to you, and the only thing that will allow you to protect yourself and your family is the size and power of your personal arsenal.
But some honestly believe you don’t really need a semi-automatic weapon anyway, and if you are inclined to shoot children in a school it will take you longer to do so if you can only shoot one bullet at a time, which will lower the odds of your success, if maximum carnage is your goal.
Meanwhile, there are those who honestly believe that the United States of America is just one Democratic president away from having to surrender all of your guns, and that if just one gun restriction law is passed the slippery slope will soon leave you with only kitchen silverware to defend yourself.
And there are those who honestly believe the idea in the preceding paragraph is ridiculous.
There are some who believe semi-automatic weapons are vile and ugly.
Others believe they are bad-ass and beautiful.
Over the last few days we’ve been hearing that mass shootings aren’t a gun problem, they’re a mental health problem. “Keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill” sounds great, but like all vague and simplistic ideas it will utterly fall apart in the details of implementation. The can will continue to be kicked down Pennsylvania Avenue, while we continue our national arms race—not against the Russians, but against each other.
Meanwhile, lots more people will die. A nightclub here, an elementary school there, a music festival in Vegas, a Christmas party in San Bernardino. There will be enough dead people to trigger some of the living to say that limits on semi-automatic weapons might be worth considering.
But there I go. You’ve probably just written me off as another liberal wimp gun hater who thinks we can solve the world’s problems by holding hands and singing Kumbaya. I’m not, by the way, but I don’t think a discussion is a bad idea. Discussions used to be the way we solved things in America, before all of our brains, left and right, turned into concrete.
Well, a guy can dream. But I expect we’ll just keep plodding along the way we are now, and in two or three months we’ll be having this discussion again after the next mass shooting. The voices on the Left will call for better documentation of gun buyers and taking semi-automatic weapons off the market, and the Right will invoke the slippery slope argument, and besides, they’ll say, you can make pretty good case for buying more, not less, guns whenever some crazy goes on a rampage.
And in the background rumbles the machinery of the NRA, which is a trade association representing gun sellers in America, and whose sole purpose is to convince you to buy more guns. In my experience, some people lose track of that.
But naturally, now is not the time to be discussing any of this. That’s the steady call from Washington after each new mass shooting. It’s too soon. Let’s not be hasty. Respect the grieving. Cue the thoughts and prayers.
After the Vegas shooting that killed 58 and wounded 851 it wasn’t the time. Too soon, Washington said. That was October 1, 2017. Flash forward to today, five and a half months later. Is it time now? Of course not.
Well, actually it is time—it’s time we face a truth. The truth is that it will never be the time. Those who insist that now is not the time know that if they wait long enough the fuss will die down and we’ll move on. Meanwhile, those who support gun ownership restrictions will wring their hands. And those who don’t will be clapping theirs.
And both sides know they’re right.