Alan Zendell, April 16th, 2021
The first report I saw of the April 15th mass shooting at a Fedex facility in Indianapolis described it as “the country’s deadliest shooting since 10 people were killed March 22 in a grocery shooting in Colorado.” Eight people were murdered in Indiana plus the suicide of the shooter, a lunatic who, in a sane society, would never have had access to a gun. What a disappointment – if he’d only killed two more people before turning the gun on himself, we’d have had a twenty-five day record.
We used to be horrified when such shootings occurred every few years. Then they became annual events. Now we track them on almost a daily basis. There was no more angst or empathy in the Indianapolis news release than there was in the sports section’s report that yesterday, the St. Louis Cardinals scored their highest run total of the season, a seventeen day record. Are we so numb to the disease of gun violence that we now think of victim counts setting records in personal tragedy?
A friend recently suggested that we take mass shootings too seriously. After all, the number of Americans who die from gunshot wounds (not counting police and the armed forces) is far overshadowed by the number dead from COVID. The Brady Center For the Prevention of Gun Violence reports that an average of 316 Americans are shot by someone trying to kill them every day, and 106 of them die. An almost identical number, about 104, die every day in automobile accidents, prompting some gun advocates to suggest that gun control measures would be equivalent to revoking our drivers licenses.
At its height, COVID claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people per day. The Trump administration refused to take simple, obvious actions that could have saved a half million Americans from the pandemic, and even with the Biden administration vaccinating more than three million people per day, we are still averaging between 700 and 1,000 daily COVID deaths. Why are we so upset about a mere 106 gun deaths per day? Either my friend was right or something is terribly amiss in America. Hint: it’s the latter.
Last week, President Biden issued an Executive Order aimed at getting rid of “ghost guns” and making it easier to apply Red Flag laws to prevent people who are incapable of owning a gun responsibly from having access to them. The measure was limited and may never take effect if pro-gun advocates challenge it in court. Any hope of improving our gun violence epidemic will require bipartisan legislation. I’m sure Biden will make the effort, but far less confident that it will succeed.
At the first indication that such legislation has any chance of success, the extreme right wing media outlets will start their usual rants about the government coming to take our guns away. We’ve seen this madness play out so many times, I could write the script today. As far as the gun lobbies are concerned, the Second Amendment is the Holy Grail. The simple statement in the mindset of the eighteenth century, that sought to assure that citizens could arm themselves and form militias in case the British wanted to take their colonies back has become the most hyped and politicized argument of our generation.
The Second Amendment wasn’t intended to support universal gun ownership without qualifications. Questions like whether a Chicago police officer was justified in shooting a thirteen-year-old boy because he appeared to be carrying a gun miss the point. Who in his right mind would give a gun to a thirteen-year-old child in the first place? And who wants to see guns in the hands of mentally incompetent adults or convicted felons? These questions are in no sense political, yet they have been conflated with the entire far right agenda.
I have always supported an individual’s right to possess firearms, though I don’t believe the Second Amendment intended that to be an unlimited entitlement. I’m coming to believe that it’s time the government began fulfilling the far right’s prophesy and confiscating guns from those who a consensus of responsible citizens agree shouldn’t have them. If our cities were teeming with plague-infected rats, we’d initiate an all-out campaign to exterminate them. How is easy access to guns different?
The Gallup organization reports that since 2013 about 60% of Americans consistently believed we need stricter gun control laws. Yet our lawmakers are more concerned with what the NRA and gun lobbies think. But no matter how much money they receive from those entities, all they really care about is being re-elected. It’s up to us, the voters, to let them know that the 60% who want gun ownership reasonably regulated will be paying attention in November, 2022.