In the wake of yet another mass shooting in America, the predictable responses are already pouring in. The do-nothing crowd of NRA-funded Republican politicians are mechanically offering their utterly meaningless “thoughts and prayers” and blaming everything and anything other than guns. Meanwhile, the gun control crowd (of which I’m a proud member) is once again urging politicians to do something, anything, to try to quell the bloodshed. Fox News commentators then complain that it’s too early to politicize the tragedy. We gun control types say, “If not now, when?” And then nothing happens other than another school shooting a few days later. This is the state of mass gun violence in modern-day America.
This cycle is depressing, and it’s literally killing us. So how do we get out of it? How can we move the stubbornly immovable guns-above-all-else crowd into action? Maybe with this one simple question: “What will it take to get you to agree to gun control?”
Ask that question, and see what the answer is. Because right now, what’s going on is clearly not enough for the “thoughts and prayers” crowd. Regular school shootings is not enough. Killing 20 six and seven year olds in elementary school is also not enough. Over 500 injured and almost 60 killed at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas and 50 killed at a night club in Orlando – also not enough. Mass shootings at colleges, movie theaters, churches, temples, office buildings, restaurants, post offices, community centers, homes, and other places – not enough. Not even a shooting of a Republican member of Congress at a GOP baseball practice was enough to move politicians into action.
So what if the gun violence happened more frequently? What if there were multiple school shootings every day? And what if each one of them was like yesterday’s or like Sandy Hook, with about 20 kids killed? Would that be enough to spur people into action? Maybe when 40 or more school kids are killed every single day, Congress will find a way to act. But then again, maybe they would once more do nothing.
So let’s talk about grand totals. Every year in this country, about 35,000 people die from guns. About 13,000 of them are by homicide and the other 21,500 by suicide. Clearly, based on the lack of action from Congress and other politicians, these people’s lives aren’t enough. But what if these numbers were doubled? If instead of 35,000 people per year, it was 70,000? And if that number’s not high enough, how about 200,000 people per year? Or 500,000? Or 5 million? Those high numbers are clearly far-fetched, but let’s consider them anyway. Would 1.5 percent of the American population dying every year from gun violence be enough to make us finally enact gun control?
If the answer to any of these hypotheticals is yes, then the natural response is this: why isn’t what’s happening now enough? Anyone who thinks that the hypotheticals above would move them from no to yes on gun control is saying that the lives of the people being killed now are just not worth enough, the losses of their families just not compelling enough. They’ll do something, but only when there’s even more misery and violence than there is now.
But if the answer to “what will it take?” is that nothing can change their mind, then anti-gun control folks are saying that mass shootings everywhere in the country just don’t matter. That killing scores of school kids every day would not be worth changing anything. That guns slaughtering millions of Americans every year wouldn’t move them. If the answer to “what will it take?” is nothing, if they really think that outrageously high numbers of people being killed by guns won’t matter, then that person is admitting that human life is absolutely valueless when weighed against possession of a gun. They are saying that people don’t matter, only guns do. Anyone walking down this road should both a) be forced to articulate this position clearly and then b) be shunned from public life entirely.
I’ve made it clear in the past that I want extreme measures in response to gun violence – such as repealing the Second Amendment to the Constitution – and I strongly urge people who agree with me to that extent, or even to a lesser extent, to do more to voice these opinions. To me, we as a country must act on this issue immediately. Sensible gun control, even while keeping the Second Amendment, should be easy, but there are too many politicians who refuse to act. To all of them, and to their supporters, we must ask this simple question – “what will it take?”