Sunday, July 22, 2012

Should we be surprised?

No, not at all.  What happened early Friday morning in Aurora, Colorado is tragic and people should rally around the victims but, frankly, this will be old news in a week or so.  All the standard rhetoric will be spit up by the liberal and conservative camps:  the liberals will call for increased gun regulation (seems reasonable) whereas conservatives will claim that the vast majority of gun owners are responsible (I agree) and had the conceal-and-carry laws been more liberal a heroic bystander would have gunned down the crazed madman before he shot dozens of people (unlikely but anything is possible).  There are already a spate of newspaper articles and editorials pouring forth (NY Times, Washington Post, Slate, Fox News, etc.) and they are unlikely to abate over the next several days.  The pissing contest that inevitably follows after a tragedy like this is simultaneously entertaining and depressing but it seems so...hollow.  Even the least-informed among us will (hopefully?) concede that Americans love guns, prize our constitutional right to gun-ownership ("A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed"), and gleefully practice that right.   There are lawyers, constitutional scholars, and policy wonks far more intelligent than me that debate the intent & meaning of the constitution at length so I won't bother chiming in or pretending to know more than I do (admittedly not much) but I can't help surrender to a sense of resignation and cynicism.  

We, as a country, created and perpetuate an environment where procuring Arms is relatively easy and the consequences of irresponsibly using those Arms are relatively minor and short-lived, at least at the community and social level.  Sure, the gun-wielding madman that mows down a dozen patrons in a movie theater will probably spend the rest of his life in prison, maybe even be executed, but the laws and regulations on the books will largely remain unchanged (maybe even loosened?).  Does anyone remember Gabby Giffords?  She was shot in the head on January 8, 2011 and although there were a few calls for reform and tightening of some gun control laws, very little changed.  It's well known that the NRA is an enormously powerful lobby and politicians don't have the balls to stand up to the lobby to initiate change but my more cynical opinion is that the at-large citizenry is unwilling to surrender their constitutional right to guns, 33-round magazines, and easy procurement of assault weapons and until we loosen our grip, change will remain a distant, if not unrealistic, goal.  Before I'm pigeon-holed as yet another out-of-touch, pie-in-the-sky liberal who wants for a big-government communist-like society where individual liberty and freedom are trampled upon let me re-emphasize that I'm not advocating for a revocation of the second amendment.  The United States was borne as a "frontier" country where protection and self-sufficiency were an ingrained part of our identity and to some extent, we still are, so the ability to take up Arms --- to own guns --- will always be a central part of our identity.  But that doesn't mean we can't exercise a little prudence.  Perhaps ban sale of assault weapons?  Or the accessories that make them even more deadly than they already are?  I can't imagine any regulation like this would ruin the hunting experience (unless people are the hunted in which case, well, we have bigger problems) or infringe on law-abiding folks right to purchase and own a gun.  Until we (seriously) consider some degree of reform, what happened in Aurora should be viewed as a consequence of what we are.  If we want to make it easy for virtually anyone to "bear Arms" --- even if those Arms bear virtually no resemblance to what the framers of the constitution imagined --- then, well, we need to live with the consequences.  Those twelve deaths and 59 injuries are collateral damage for a freedom we hold dear.

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