It has been exactly ninety days since the Massacre of Sandy Hook. Ninety days for the country to look at solutions to stop, or at least slow down gun violence. Instead, we have been distracted by partisan polarization to the point that when a decorated Navy Captain, astronaut and husband of gunned down Congressperson Gabby Giffords supports an opinion that differs from the fringe gun community they explode with vitriol, hate and immature rhetoric, directed at an American hero. They exhibit that which is worst in this country, irrational outrage that is the 21st Century equivalent of tar and pitchforks, hate filled mob rule. Except that they do not rule.
But to the good, both state and federal legislatures have introduced scores of bills intended to improve public health that is impacted by gun violence. On the federal level, over 40 bills have been introduced, though none have made it out of committee. While many of them will fail, they have opened up the national conversation and as a by-product have finely defined politicians’ priorities and their stance on issues important to Americans’ safety.
I have been saying since December that Sandy Hook was a tipping point, an event so tragic that it woke up the very large “middle” of America. It got the attention of the folks who, until December 14th had not given much consideration one way or the other about the effects of gun violence in this country, about whether the 18th Century Second Amendment really does give people the right to own any weapon whatsoever. That large group in the middle found, in 2012 that they are no longer safe going to the cafes, bars, shopping malls, churches, theaters and even workplaces and schools where they expected a modicum of safety.
They are paying attention now, and it will be that group, not the pro-gun side or the pro-gun regulation side that defines the debate, that defines the tolerance of America to violence and that will decide the solutions and outcomes.
The ninety day marker gives us time to pause to see what has happened, what is happening now and what we can expect to happen as the subject of gun violence is on the table. Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, over 2680 Americans have been killed by gun violence. At least 181 of them were under 20 years old…46 of them under 12 years old. There have been over 2050 deaths in 2013 alone insuring that, yet again we will have over 10,000 Americans killed by gun violence. And that does not include the near 20,000 that will die by suicide with firearms.
Also, in the past ninety days the country has seen states like New York, Colorado and Maryland define what a state is willing to do. In all three states there have been boycotts and threats by their gun manufacturing industry to “pull out”. Legislators have proven in these states that the public health and public safety outweigh economic threats.
But there is another comparison that is not as favorable. The US Congress, post 9/11 acted within six weeks to implement the Patriot Act. No matter your opinion of the Act, it was implemented to address the massacre of 2996 Americans – just ONE THIRD as many that are killed each and every year by gun violence in this country. And as a snarky aside, not a single one of the millions of AR-15 owners in this country was able to defend again the horrible violence of just 19 men.
Yesterday Michael Moore reminded Americans that that these watershed events; tipping points define change in America.
In 1955 photographs of Emmett Till’s shot, mutilated, barbed wire tied body were shown to the world by a mother that wanted everyone to see what bigotry and hatred did to her 14 year old boy. From that event the Civil Rights movement began.
In 1965 we saw photographs of African American men in Selma, Alabama being brutally beaten, hosed and sprayed with tear gas for marching across a bridge. Five months later the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed and signed by a very pissed off Lyndon Johnson.
In 1968 and 1969 the world saw photographs of three severe acts of terror, 500 civilians at My Lai in Vietnam who were killed by US soldiers, a prisoner shot in the head by a South Vietnamese general and in June 1968, Robert Kennedy lay dead from an assassin’s bullet. The first two events turned the tide of support for the Viet Nam war. The third, Senator Kennedy’s death brought, just four months later the passage and signing of the Gun Control Act of 1968, a bill that had been languishing in Congress prior to the deaths of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Congress and statehouses across the country have the opportunity to address the problems of gun violence NOW. They have the obligation to do what is within their power to make this country a safer place; a safer place to go shopping, to go to church, to go out to dinner, to go to the movies, to go to work, to take our nation’s children to school.
We have the ability to change, to evolve as we look at the necessary solutions to end gun violence in this country. The roadblocks are many, from paranoia that a tyrannical government will need stopped, that hordes of undefined marauders will come over the hill to pillage the homestead, that regulations are the first step of confiscation and a [yet again] undefined New World Order…and we know who liked confiscation and a New World Order…so it must be true.
Nobody is talking about confiscation of guns, of gutting the Second Amendment, of eliminating the 300 million guns that are privately owned in this country. What is being proposed is simply regulating processes that occur with gun ownership, to get stolen guns off the streets, to keep folks who can’t legally buy guns from running down to the nearest gun show and diving into the copious gun buffets to get all they want.
It will happen when folks look at that which is proposed, not abstract hypotheticals and paranoid mental exercises of the many gun blogs which conveniently make money off of the angst and turmoil that they help propagate. It will happen when all sides of the conversation focus on reality rather than hyperbola.
McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resided in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.
You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.