I rarely post overtly political content here, since our modern media space is already so rife with whatever flavor of partisan zealotry you might want to wallow in, 24/7/365, that I don’t wish to add to the constant fire hose to the face that most of us experience anytime we’re near a computer or a television or a radio or a magazine. That’s a conscious, active choice for me to manage my personal website that way, despite my professional and academic backgrounds in political science and public policy, which ostensibly support me having some informed thoughts on the subject of governance. I mean, I also have some strong and well-formed thoughts on religion and sex, but having been raised properly in a good Southern household, I know those are also not things that should be discussed at the (virtual) dinner table.
That said: like most folks in the country, I’m not really able to crawl into my shell of solitude or to stick my fingers in my ears and make “la la la la la la” noises to drown out the horrible stories about mass shootings that have so dominated our discourse in recent days. Or weeks. Or months. Or years. Or decades. Utter tragedies, all of them. And while it seems like the folks we elect to represent us might want to do something about it, we know that entrenched monetary and political interests are virulently opposed to any efforts to legislate limits and improvements on gun ownership and deployment, often suggesting that the solution to too many shootings is just to inject more guns, more freely brandished, into the national ecosystem.
In the aftermath of the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings (and the dozens that have happened between and since them, but weren’t “big enough” to make national news), the usual suspects are working to implement changes to Federal gun policy, and the other usual suspects are working the thwart them. (We know who we’re talking about on each side, right?) As has become standard in these cases, the usual “freedom and liberty” arguments have been passionately made by the guns-guns-and-more-guns team, after the usual “thoughts and prayers” sentiments were expressed, of course. But as national dismay about this state of affairs steadily grows — polling indicates that a sizable majority of Americans seek some changes to the ways in which we can access and deploy high-powered weaponry, be it an increased age for purchase, banning particular weapons, implementing “red flag rules” or universal background checks, etc. — more pro-gun politicians are being pointedly asked by journalists and constituents: “Why can’t we do something?”
It has been a head-spinning exercise to process their responses. At bottom line: the gun lobby and its clients (political, corporate, community, and individual) argue that we don’t need to do anything about Federal gun laws, because it’s not the guns that are the problem. So the obvious second question is: “Well, why are we having all of these mass killings if it’s not because of the guns?” It’s been a real media hot take in recent weeks to report on the answers given by various elected and aspiring government officials, in terms of who and what they blame for the problem.
After reading a few of those articles, I decided to see if I could make a complete list of the many theories being posited by Team Elephant (if you can find a Democrat making such arguments, please share), so I did a Google search for articles posted in the past two weeks using the search terms “GOP Lawmaker Blames” and “GOP Candidate Blames.”
Here’s what I came up with, on the topic “who or what is to blame for the current epidemic of gun violence,” posited by various Republican legislators or candidates, and presented in alphabetical order:
- Black People
- Critical Race Theory
- Decline in Moral Values
- Decline of the “Traditional American Family”
- Declining Church Attendance
- “Drag Queen Advocates”
- “False Flag” operations by the FBI, CIA and/or White House
- Gay Marriage
- Hatred of Veterans
- Lack of corporal punishment in schools
- Lack of faith
- Lack of prayer in schools
- Legalized marijuana
- Liberal teachers
- Mental Illness Epidemic
- Open borders
- President Obama
- Public school teachers
- Rap Music
- Single mothers
- Social Media
- Too many doors in buildings
- Trans People
- Video Games
- Women in the Workplace
Very few of these targets of blame were explained with any sort of lucid causation or correlation analysis, but were instead seemingly offered simply to distract readers and citizens from exploring any meaningful underlying causes for the tragedies caused by our out-of-control national gun culture. Yes, it’s complicated. Yes, it’s hard. But, yes, we really do need to do something other than nothing, and soon. Even incremental change matters: if pragmatic public policy could reduce the number of innocent victims of mass and other criminal shootings by just 20% annually, that’s thousands of American lives spared each year from awful, violent ends, never mind the collateral damage victims who don’t die, but are maimed with life-altering injuries. Isn’t that worth something? Isn’t that a good outcome?
I don’t have the answers, of course. And if I did, I don’t have the power to implement them. But one thing I do know is that we must not accept the sorts of bullshit being spewed in the list above, from anybody, ever. Assigning blame to those targets does not fix the problem, and it actually increases the likelihood of additional violence against those people who are being tagged as menaces and dangers, without just cause. Here’s hoping that enough people of all political stripes have had enough of the carnage, and enough of the finger-pointing in random directions, so that reasonable politicians representing reasonable citizens can come together to take steps that demonstrate that we’re not simply sighing a big collective sigh and accepting that this is the way that things must be. They don’t have to be this way. They shouldn’t be this way. They can’t stay this way.
In closing, let me note that if your reaction to this piece is to send me a scathing comment about being a libtard snowflake coastal socialist who wants to repeal your Second Amendment rights, you should really hold your tongue on that point, since none of those descriptors are accurate. I’m patriotic, without having to fly a flag of convenience to prove it. I’ve fired a wide variety of handguns, rifles, and various heavier ordinance pieces over the years, and was well-trained on the proper use and care of them all. I come from a long line of warriors, raised in an Evangelical Southern household. I attended a Federal service academy, served in the military, and worked on in the defense sector as a civilian after my active duty time was done, negotiating deals for some of the most formidable equipment in the Nation’s arsenal, and also supervising the acquisition of the firearms used by the well-trained security inspectors who guarded the sensitive nuclear site where I worked. And when I no longer needed to do those things to satisfy my professional obligations, and given that I am not part of a well-regulated militia, I’ve not seen fit to own or fire a weapon since that period of my life came to its conclusion.
Shooting guns is just not my idea of fun. Nor is continually reading about my fellow Americans being gunned down when they’re just trying to pursue their own lives, liberty, and happiness. We deserve better. And to get what we deserve, we truly need to identify, vet, and elect better politicians who will smartly pursue policies that hold the social contracts that bind us first and foremost, and not the wishes of the most extremely partisan benefactors who fund their campaigns and shape their agendas. There was a time in our not-so-distant past when electoral offices were typically pursued adjacent to a sense of public service and common good from candidates, who were expected to have a least some modicum of experience related to the jobs of governance. These days, though, it seems ever more of our elected officials are in it for personal financial gain or just because they crave attention. And with no well-formulated beliefs and little professional training for their jobs, they end up just being shills and mouthpieces for whatever lobbyists brought them to the big ball as useful idiot dance partners.
Enough. Really. Just enough.