Oh, the constitution, that immutable and unchangeable avatar of rights and righteousness. These rights shall not be infringed. These rights shall not be qualified or contained. These rights must remain immutable, and the alternative is unthinkable. Yet is not the death of school children equally unthinkable? Not, it seems, equally.
There are people who think tighter, more sensible gun control is one of many solutions to the death of children. At least 60% of America, as it happens. If you ask about specific policies, such as stricter background checks, even more of us agree: to possess weapons are a right, but it should be a well-regulated right, not a free-for-all.
Agreement does not lead to action. Agreement creates a great body of followers, willing to go along with a thing, but unlikely to champion it. By and large, Americans want more control over guns. The problem is not with the public unwillingness to agree, but with the champions.
Whenever someone (take Obama, for example) stands up to agree with the American majority, they are vilified. Liars and self-interested propagandists start barking and clamoring with “now is not the time” or “he wants to take your guns” or “government overreach” or “good guy with a gun” or “it won’t work.” Suddenly, it is political. And then the people who politicized what we mostly agreed about start denouncing others for politicizing it.
And then it ends, and begins again when more children die.
Champions on the other side are equally beset. The entire Republican party, from which might come the least threatening and most second-amendment sensitive regulation of guns, is hostage to extremists. Gun control is a toxic cause, not because the majority of Republicans don’t want it (they do), but because the National Rifle Troll Association and its political mouthpieces stand ready to destroy the career of anyone who dares mention it.
If you’re a Democrat, gun control is a non-starter because of Republicans. If you’re a Republican, gun control is a non-starter because your party will disown you.
Where, exactly, does this leave us on an issue where most people agree? A very deadly nowhere.
Because we agree, but can’t act, children die.
Because we agree, but can’t act, nothing changes.
Because we agree, but can’t act, the only gun control we have is inertia.
We could have sane solutions, and we mostly agree on what those solutions are. Instead, we let children die. The only word I have for that isn’t “freedom.” The only words I have for that are “negligence” and “complicity” and “cowardice.”
See, every time this happens people line up saying “no one needs a gun” and also saying “gun control is fascism, hands off my rights!” And while the desperate fear on one side is empathetic and the desperate fear on the other is self-interest, none of it helps us agree. The sober empathy, and the willingness to give up a little for the safety of others: these are conspicuously missing.
I suppose that, these days, is what makes us American. We could, with a little courage and negotiation, solve the problems where we mostly agree. We could, but we’d rather sacrifice the innocent than compromise even a little.
Image Credit: Kennysarmy