Back to Normal
“There is a constitutional right to bear arms. There is not a constitutional right to kill innocent people.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D. Ill.)
“Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater, where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (Rep. TX)
We are crossing our fingers that a combination of a broad distribution of Covid vaccines and continuing caution in our behavior will return us to a summer of 4th of July barbecues, reunions with friends and grandchildren and uninhibited trips to the ball park. But in the past week we have witnessed the return of a darker, but no less prevalent, form of normalcy in America: the mass shooting. An apparently anti-Asian motivated murder of eight spa and massage parlor workers (six of them Asian) in Atlanta last week (with a creepy misogynistic element)and this week’s so-far without apparent motive killing of 10 grocery store shoppers in Boulder have the same common denominator of all mass shootings: they were committed with a gun that was likely obtained legally.
With the usual mantra of “this time is different,” Congress dithers over the mildest form of gun control legislation, expanded background checks, that was passed by the House, with no possibility of consideration by a Senate that is hamstrung by a Republican minority who thinks our founders intended that every law-abiding citizen own a military-style weapon. In their view, it is a wonder that the 2nd amendment didn’t safeguard ownership of cannons that could blow off the limbs of the participants on both sides of our War of Independence to protect our families and our homes.
Whatever Joe Biden accomplishes in his time as president, I guarantee it won’t include a ban on assault weapons. Despite a vast majority of Americans, including most Republicans, favoring common sense gun control laws, it is highly doubtful that Congress will do anything, continuing to rely on the usual dissembling of those who espouse the notion that any restrictions on gun ownership will lead us down the pernicious road of mass confiscation. Somehow, with the number of weapons in this country approaching 400 million and climbing, the chance of that happening is less than the Yankees signing me to play shortstop. With this many guns, it is no wonder that they become the first choice for resolving disputes or expressing our sense of personal grievance.
The reality is that, as devastating as they are, mass killings are just a small part of the problems of the gun proliferation phenomena in this country. Most gun-related deaths are suicides, followed by domestic violence shootings and accidental deaths of children who have ready access to loaded weapons in the house. Many states have passed “red flag” statutes that attempt to get guns out of the hands of unstable or other individuals who have demonstrated a propensity towards violence. There have been a slew of common sense restrictions enacted in a number of states, but the landscape remains a partisan divide, with red state legislators replacing previous restrictions with more gun-friendly laws.
Despite the diminishing influence of the scandal-plagued NRA, and the rise of well-funded gun control groups, such as the Michael Bloomberg-backed Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun lobby is as strong as ever. And Congress now has a new breed of true-believer gun advocates, not least Rep. Lauren Boebert (R. Col), who insists on packing while on the job in the Capitol and who tweeted a missive in the aftermath of the Boulder shooting in her home state against the “radical gun-grabbing left,” which she said is working to “violate your due process and criminalize the private transfer of firearms.” I dare say that I do understand Ms. Boebert’s view in one respect. She may need her weapon the next time her right wing allies rampage the Capitol to overthrow the government.