In the days after yet another school shooting, this time in Portland, let’s take a moment and reflect on how our attitude towards gun control and ownership has evolved in the past few years.
The Sandy Hook tragedy took place on December 14, 2012, about a year and a half ago. Columbine was on April 20, 1999: 15 years ago. The Aurora movie theatre shootings, in which killed 12 people were shot and killed at the opening of the movie Dark Knight Rises, happened on July 20, 2012, almost two years ago. A friend of mine recently told me she was nervous about going to the movies; she was afraid of a gunman opening fire. Before 7/20/12, it probably never occurred to her that going to the movies could get you shot. Now, apparently, we should be afraid to leave our kids at school.
It’s hard to imagine a tragedy as horrible as Sandy Hook. The country was so horrified by the slaughter of innocent children that even President Obama, long suspected by right wing pundits and their listeners of harboring a secret desire to “take our guns,” sounded like he wanted to take our guns. Well, not really–he proposed toughening up on background checks. Former state representative Gabrielle Giffords, a gun owner herself disabled in a shooting that killed 6 others, including 9 year old Christina Taylor Green, spoke up in support of expanded background checks…and in April, 2013, the legislation died in the Senate like so many schoolkids, while Sandy Hook was still fresh in our minds.
Earlier this week, a 14 year old boy opened fire on school grounds near Portland, Oregon. Writers Sam Stein and Nick Wing wrote in The Huffington Post: “Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Ct., there have been an average of 1.37 school shootings for each school week…” More than one per week. The math is simple. Add up the number of school shootings since Sandy Hook–it’s 74 now–and then divide by the number of weeks that have passed since. That number does not tell the whole story. The article goes on to point out that this statistic does not take into account the weeks of summer, spring and fall breaks when there are less kids/teachers in school to shoot. There are far fewer shootings when there are no targets. So how many shootings have taken place on school grounds when kids are there?
Meanwhile, technology has been developed to make guns safer. Now equipped with fingerprint locks, these guns lock unless the person firing the gun is the person authorized to do so, not that person’s 6 year old son showing his little brother how a gun works. Not the home invader who finds the gun first or simply takes it away from the owner.
In 2002, New Jersey passed a law mandating that within three years of the first “smart gun” sale in the US, only smart guns will be sold in NJ. Now, smart guns are on sale. Well, here they go again. The government’s going to war with the constitution. Are we going to allow the government to take away our right to gun possession? Even if it’s someone else’s gun? There are now efforts in NJ to repeal that law.
Down in Texas, according to USA Today, Chili’s and Sonic Drive-In announced on May 30th that they are requesting that patrons keep their guns at home, out of their restaurants. They stand for the principle that neither guns nor edible food will be tolerated at their locations. This announcement was in response to the Open Carry Texas protest, in which gun owners display their guns in full view while going about their social business, an effort to draw attention to their rights to bear arms. (The right to bear arms has been such a well-kept secret.)
After the Chili’s announcement, Facebook friends of mine opened up a debate on the restaurant’s decision. One of them, a restaurant owner in suburban Philadelphia, said in so many words that it was not his policy to deprive customers of their constitutional rights in his restaurant.
There is it, the central divide. Social welfare vs individual rights. So many people are terrified the government wants to take away their freedom, so over-reactive in their individualism, that they want to carry assault rifles in the street and not even the news reports of dead kids shake them from their fortified trees. When you mention school shootings, you hear arguments like, “The killer would get guns anyway.” “They should arm the teachers, the school security staff.” “We need more guns.” (The Oregon school shot up yesterday had armed guards.)
A coworker came into my office a few days back, and we chatted about guns. I brought up the subject by laughing about an Onion headline which read, ” ‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” He made the dusty argument that anyone who wants a gun can get one. Gun control is a waste of time and could cost lives by preventing law abiding citizens from arming themselves. Here’s his argument in a nutshell, “You should not make guns harder to get because they’re so easy to get.”
That argument is in a nutshell. We have not evolved at all.