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October 12, 2015

When will we learn?

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Another group of students doing nothing more than attending class at their local community college lay dead and wounded at the hands of a sick and twisted loner. They went there to learn, they left there in body bags and on gurneys, victims of an angry and confused young adult.


The details are mind-numbingly horrifying. Instead of the random spray of bullets as we’d come to expect in other mass casualty shootings, this time the shooter asked his victims whether or not they were Christians. Those who professed their personal faith died, those who hesitated or responded that they weren’t Christians were wounded, not killed.


This time, it only took hours for the defenders and opponents to take to the airwaves to bring the latest round of competing arguments. It’s almost to be expected that liberal pundits and politicians immediately renew their call for added gun control and ownership restrictions.


Just as quickly, the National Rifle Association (NRA) responded that the issue is mental health, not the legal ownership of private firearms. Call it the “guns don’t kill people, mentally ill people with guns do” strategy.


President Barack Obama promised that now, he would make this issue political. Like it hasn’t always been one of the most political issues in our nation’s history. The president’s claim of politicizing gun ownership is maybe the silliest thing he’s said, and that alone is saying something!


Democrat and leading presidential candidate Hillary R. Clinton was so quick to the microphone that she almost held her press availability before the shell casings cooled. Her take on the tragedy is that obviously Republicans are to blame. Not a sick and perverted young man, but any GOP candidate running for president.


Her expanded strategy is to pursue a series of policy changes that Obama couldn’t get through the Congress even when his party controlled both the House and the Senate. She would reinstitute the assault weapons ban (in spite of the millions already in the hands of law-abiding citizens). She’d restrict the ability to purchase high-capacity magazines (in spite of the millions already in private hands), and she’d require registration for the purchase of guns in all cases, including gun shows.


It’s not really a ground-breaking approach! A Democrat raises something just like this every time a bunch of white kids die at the hand of a nutcase.


What you don’t hear is a call for mandatory minimum sentences and re-institution of the death penalty in cases where firearms are used in the commission of a felony. Because as exercised as these politicians all seem to get over the nutcase-with-a-gun shooting school kids, they don’t want to confront the dangerous conditions on urban streets.


Last month alone, 60 people were shot to death in Chicago. Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit see the same thing nightly. Drugs, poverty and despair drive minorities to kill one another using illegally acquired guns every weekend. Where’s the outrage? Where are the penalties for these acts of unacceptable violence?


Not to sound too fatalistic, but it seems incredibly naïve to think that our national leaders (such as they are) possess the intellect to diagnose and address these issues long-term. Hell, they can’t even stop long enough to examine the whole problem before they start popping off with their half-witted diagnosis.


And why are we even listening to the special interests, either? They have a fiduciary interest in the outcome. The NRA wants more paying members to finance the six-figure salaries of their federal and state lobbyists. The Brady Ban bunch wouldn’t even know what to do if an actual dialogue broke out, they need continued gun violence to finance their massive media/PR machine.


The shooter in Oregon legally acquired all of his guns. Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the nation. Rushing to judgment in either case means we’re going to miss important nuances.


In order to ever have any hope of arriving at some answers, we'll have to talk about constitutional rights, stigmatization, punishment and penalties, eradicating poverty and cost and access to mental health services.

Our current political climate, particularly in an election cycle, is not conducive to thoughtful, introspective dialogue. If anything, just the opposite is true.


When will we learn?


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