THE STOUT STICK
GUN CONTROL: STOP THE CONVERSATION AND START THE ACTION
It is a few days after the worst incident of gun violence on American soil, and everything is the same as it was minutes before the ending and upending of lives of hundreds of victims – the dead, injured, their families and friends. We are no closer to life-saving legislation on gun control than we were at 2 A.M. on Sunday morning, but the same avoidance rhetoric is still being bandied about. Our political candidates, Democrat and Republican, are using the incident for their own good – not for ours, for theirs. On the one hand, Donald Trump is alternately blaming the attack on his stand-by anti-Muslim trope and intelligence officials not being allowed to do their jobs, while Hillary Clinton is trotting out the tired language of "common sense gun safety" and a ban on assault weapons.
I condemn the former because he represents the inner circle who control the NRA, the money-hungry GOP politicians who rely on their campaign contributions, the lobbyists who make millions distorting the truth for them and the individuals who wave the Second Amendment as if it were the Stars and Stripes without understanding either its historical or present legal contexts. He represents the false fear that has been instilled in the "cold, dead hands" advocates/conspiracy theorists, who equate taking away assault weapons, cop-killer bullets and high-capacity magazines with the first step in the government wiping out every word in the Constitution and the U.S. becoming a police state.
I condemn the latter because she is the standard bearer of politicians, mostly on the left and center, who are more concerned with maintaining their jobs than with showing true conviction and sacrifice and leading the charge to legislate and regulate guns. They, too, pander in their own way to the NRA, gun lobbies and the lunatic gun fringe because they are terrified that they could lose their benefits-laden Washington jobs if they alienated the section of their voter base that screams far louder than their true numbers.
Whether they believe logical limitations to gun ownership are warranted or not, the vast majority of both national and state politicians – left, center and right – will not support gun control because it goes against their overriding interest to remain employed in the political sector.
They will, however, do what they have done best: talk about gun control – because talk is cheap and easy to back away from. They will call for the same "calm, honest conversations" that have gone before to no result. There are always words, but there is never commitment, action or legislation. And if talk is cheap, what does that say about the value that they place on our lives – except when it comes time for reelection?
Today and in the days and weeks to come there will be more talk in Washington and under state house domes of "keeping the victims in our thoughts and prayers" – but thoughts and prayers will not bring back the dead and comfort the families. They won't ease the fears of every parent dropping a child off at school, every LGBTQ individual entering a club, every African American joining in a prayer session, every couple going to a movie, every member of the military on a base, every student at a university.
Promises of thoughts and prayers only help the cowardly, self-serving politicians, gun lobbyists and the weapons manufacturers, purveyors and advertisers controlling the NRA to keep their jobs. They will help gun advocates keep their assault weapons, cop-killer bullets and high-capacity clips – at the ongoing expense of everyone else's safety.
The list of the gun-related massacres this nation has endured is long – the list of those to come has yet to be written; but if we can judge the future by the past, the past will pale in comparison to the future – a future written in an endless flow of innocent blood.
Unless we act – and act today. Now. Before tomorrow when I am not here to write this or you to read this because you, I or both will have been cut down in another act of senseless – but avoidable – gun violence.
It is time to establish or restore common-sense gun regulations that stop the easy flow of guns from the trade show to the home, that enforce strict background checks, that ban weapons and ammunition whose only place is in the hands of the military or law enforcement officers. No one is being asked to sacrifice guns used for hunting, target shooting, personal protection or antique collection. No one is being asked to endure a one-year waiting period to own a gun. We must put the lie to the declaration that, "I can have an assault weapon because it's my G-d-given, constitutional right." We have a right, too – and that right is to live without fear for our families, our children, our friends.
And we must fight for that right. Our government is of the people, by the people and for the people. We, the people, must force our leaders to finally listen to the fed up majority, not the shouting minority, to whom they are accountable for their jobs and to lead and legislate with our interests – not theirs – in mind.
We must use every tool at our disposal to be heard and effect change – call, write and email our legislators and the media; share our outrage on social media; attend town halls; run for public office. We must stand up and not back down until said change has been instituted, until common-sense gun laws are enacted. Only then will those who have lost their voices – their votes, and lie cold and dead, pleading from their graves, too many to count, for justice and reason – only then will that justice be found. Only then will we know true freedom – and they the peace they deserve.