Michelle Gillett: It bears repeating
I don’t like to repeat myself, it’s a waste of energy, but I am going to do it anyway -- WHY DON’T WE HAVE EFFECTIVE GUN CONTROL in this country? The kind that makes it difficult for people to purchase guns on Facebook or without a background check, the kind that makes it impossible for gun owners to build up arsenals of semi-automatic weapons, the kind that makes us feel our children are safe in the their classrooms and campuses?
The problem with repeating the question is that is becomes a substitute for action, and action often speaks louder than words. The Internet gives us access to opinions and allows us to express our outrage, to post photos of shoppers walking around Target and Home Depot with rifles slung over their shoulders, to see videos of shootings, and schoolchildren practicing for lockdowns huddled under bulletproof blankets. But watching and posting is not the same as doing something. We read the statistics about the number of school shootings and don’t move from our computers to march to Washington with those statistics on signs we wave over our heads.
We have a greater proliferation of guns in public that ever before. We have more homicides than any other industrialized country. We have laws that are so full of loopholes they look more like shooting practice targets than reliable contracts of our rights. Our right to bear arms has become too dangerous for us to live with. We have a Congress that doesn’t want to do anything about gun control, and limits the president’s authority to make the changes he would like make in present gun laws.
President Obama told Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp, that his "biggest frustration so far" is America’s unwillingness to take basic steps to reduce gun violence. "The country has to do some soul-searching on this. This is becoming the norm," Obama said. "Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced developed country on earth that would put up with this."
The National Rifle Association continues to put pressure on members of the Legislature, enough to make bills like one which would require universal background checks for all gun purchases fail in the Senate. "Most members of Congress are terrified of the NRA," Obama said. "The only thing that is going to change is public opinion. If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change." He means, it’s up to us -- those of use who keep repeating ourselves-- to make something happen.
Richard Martinez, the father of one of the University of California Santa Barbara shooting victims, said, "When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness!’ Too many have died. We should say to ourselves, ‘Not one more!’"
There have been 74 school shootings since the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, according to Michael Bloomberg’s new organization, Everytown for Gun Safety which brings together Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Actions for Gun Sense in America, two gun control groups he funds. Everytown for Gun Safety will focus on establishing policies in 15 states because, Bloomberg says, we have to work at gun control "piece by piece." The group plans to "undercut the National Rifle Association’s political power in Washington," and get federal policies for comprehensive background checks for gun buyers.
We are horrified when the shootings happen, we mourn for those who died and grieve for their families. But that’s where we stop. Instead, we need to start reducing gun violence through policies that make sense.
After the Newtown shootings, Nicholas Kristof wrote in his New York Times’ column, "Do we have the courage to stop this?", "So let’s treat firearms rationally as the center of a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes. The United States realistically isn’t going to ban guns, but we can take steps to reduce the carnage. American schoolchildren are protected by building codes that govern stairways and windows. School buses must meet safety standards, and the bus drivers have to pass tests. Cafeteria food is regulated for safety. The only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill."
It bears repeating.
Michelle Gillett writes for The New York Times.