It's Wednesday after the Las Vegas shooting. The reaction, so far, has been entirely predictable.
First, of course, came the thoughts and prayers. Then out came the mean-spirited side of liberals who took it upon themselves to cuss out the GOP and call them hypocrites for offering condolences even though they took money from the NRA. Meanwhile, conservatives let it be known that now wasn't the time to talk about politics; I suppose we need to wait a couple of more shootings.
Looks like Wednesday will go down as the day conservatives officially buried their heads in the sand to inform us, again, that they don't want to talk about gun policy at all. Almost as if coordinated, my Facebook feed was filled this morning with memes from my conservative friends that can best be summed up as, "guns don't kill people, people kill people."
Now, before I dive too deeply into politics and offer a critique of modern conservative thinking, I feel the need to let it be known that, politically, I consider myself an independent. Yes, I like to call myself an "independent progressive," but progressive, to me, is less about party or liberalism than it is simply about making progress. At the end of the day, I have voted for both Republicans and Democrats, and I have owned guns. And no, I don't think gun laws will prevent every mass shooting.
The problem with prominent conservative thinking on guns, however, is a complete disregard for the nuances of the issue, and an almost religious zeal with firearms that makes them a part of their identity. Any attack on guns, or any proposed limits whatsoever on a right they currently have, are seen as personal affronts to their being, and so they shut down.
Liberals, of course, are afflicted with this syndrome on their own issues. "I, personally, wouldn't abort a baby at 8 and a half months, but what about a woman's right to choose..." you might hear from a pro-choice proponent. Yet, the conservative obsession with guns, as it relates to personal liberties, isn't much different. Most conservatives do not own, nor do they want to own for that matter, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks (like the Las Vegas shooter had) that will allow them to fire hundreds of rounds per minute. Yet the very idea that we would discuss taking away the right to have them has sent many of them fumbling for the same old it's-the-bad-guy's-fault arguments they've always used, refusing to discuss the matter further while pointing out that you can't prevent all bad things from happening.
The memes were everywhere today; the arguments as tired and rote as you would expect. "Terrorists use cars, yet we aren't banning them," one argues. "Rapists cause rape, not drugs or walking alone, and mass shooters cause mass shootings, not guns or the NRA," argues another. "Meth isn't sold in stores, yet people use meth," argues a third. These all filled up my Facebook feed in less than an hour this morning from various people that I know.
Of course, on their face, each of those arguments are correct. For those on the side of gun control, it's important to acknowledge those arguments, acknowledge the fact that the true evil in these situations comes from the perpetrator, and finally acknowledge that you can't, in fact, stop everything.
For conservatives, however, not one of those arguments recognizes the nuance that is reality, whether it relates to guns, drugs, or rape. Yes, rapists are the ones who cause rape, but it is certainly not an overreaction to encourage women to watch how much they drink in certain situations, or to avoid walking home alone if they can. Yes, meth is against the law, and yet it is used anyway, but that doesn't mean we should legalize it and make it easier to obtain. Yes, terrorists use vehicles, and nobody has proposed banning those, but the difference, of course, is that the primary purpose of a vehicle is transportation, not killing.
The liberal view on gun control is not without problems. For starters, many of them don't truly understand weapons at all. That's where you'll hear proposals to ban, "all fully automatic and semi-automatic weapons," without realizing that a very large number of hunting rifles, that real people use for real, everyday life, are semi-automatic. It's a view that will bring absolutely zero people on board to their side of the debate. Worse is an overly-simplistic world view that says, "We could stop all of this if we just changed our gun laws and became more like Australia." The real world isn't that simple. We have guns here already, a lot of them, and somebody who's hell bent on doing harm will find a way to do it.
But if the liberal crime on this issue is a crime of naivety, the conservative crime is one of willful disregard. Not being able to stop every attack is no excuse for refusing to address how to have fewer of them. Maybe a universal background check wouldn't have stopped the Las Vegas gunman, but what if it stops the next one? Maybe the attacker would have carried out the attack without a bump stock, but how many fewer would be dead if he didn't have one? Perhaps the worst part of conservative and NRA efforts thwarting new gun regulations is not an unwillingness to negotiate any new gun restrictions, but that they've actively managed to stop federal gun violence research. In a country with so much gun violence, how can trying to prevent research on the issue be seen as anything other than trying to keep you from being fully informed?
I don't have all of the answers on preventing gun violence, including attacks such as the one we saw in Las Vegas. Nobody does. But for too many people, today was the day they decided, yet again, to try to ignore the problem. Let's hope enough people wake up this time to try to do something about it.
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