A major flood is expected in town. Evacuation orders are issued and police drive the streets in vans, warning residents. A middle-aged man, let’s call him Larry, thanks the officers but says he believes God will protect him and refuses to leave. A wall of water sweeps into town and Larry has to ascend to the second floor of his small home. Within minutes the police are back in a boat, urging the few holdouts to climb in. Larry leans out a window, again thanks the officers and reaffirms his faith. By nightfall the only dry spot on Larry’s house is the roof and as darkness descends the police helicopter hovers over him. “Come on, Larry,” they urge as they drop a rope. “It’s your last chance.” But again Larry ignores their pleas. “God will protect me,” he repeats. Within hours Larry is swept away.
As he steps up to face God in heaven he is incredulous that he is there. “God, how could you let this happen? I’ve devoted my life to you, I’ve worshipped and proselytized and lived a devout life. Why did you take me?”
God shakes his head in disgust. “I sent you a van, a boat and a helicopter, what more do you want from me?”
Eighty-two innocent people have been shot and killed in unprovoked rampages in the United States in 2012, the last 20 were children, children huddled in unimaginable horror in two Connecticut classrooms where they were shot, one by one, multiple times, at close range. The shooter had three semi-automatic weapons with him, three of the nearly 310 million guns in private ownership in the US. We have more guns per capita than all but one other country, Yemen. More than Somalia, more than Mexico, more than Syria. There is a multiple-victim shooting in the U.S. every 5.9 days.
The Gun Owners of America issued a statement that spread the blood of the Connecticut victims over the hands of gun-control supporters, repeating the threadbare refrain that if only the teachers and administrators in Newtown had been packing, this rampage could have been avoided. Presumably, GOA would add combat firearms training to teaching certificate curriculums. All in favor, raise your hands.
A “disturbed,” intelligent young white male took out his frustration at life on innocent victims because he had easy access to semi-automatic weapons. And we know what the NRA will call for once they know the facts: easier access to guns so that the “right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” What the NRA and the GOA apparently envision for the next Sandy Hook is a well-armed faculty shooting it out with the next nut job. Hopefully, the children will be trained to duck.
The other nostrum from gun-control opponents is that guns are safe in the hands of law-abiding citizens with proper safety training. That’s wishful nonsense. A one-armed monkey can learn which hole to put the bullet in and how to pull the trigger.
The dicey part is having the judgment to know when to use a weapon. George Zimmerman may very well have been proficient on a firing range but without the gun his confrontation with Trayvon Martin would have been a fist fight. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watcher and had no business with a weapon. Martin was the victim of the testosterone rush that comes with a 30-round clip on one’s hip.
Responsibility for the Newtown, and other killings can be spread around. “Strict constructionists” who blithely interpret the Second Amendment in its most literal sense believe that if Thomas Jefferson had not intended unfettered access to weapons, the constitution would have explicitly banned assault rifles and high-capacity clips.
Talk radio warns that our America is being taken by socialists. The House speaker told us the passage of health care reform would be Armageddon. A tea party favorite warned that Teach For America is a government operation to retrain young minds in the ways of European socialism. It’s amusing hyperbole to most of us but to the “disturbed” among us, those monologues are calls to violent action.
Politicians on the other side of the gun ownership issue have been inexcusably feckless. President Obama’s tearful address, as well as his equally heart-felt oration in Newtown, was inspiring but familiar. In Washington he observed that, “… we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of politics.” Indeed. And in Newtown he asked, “Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?” The very question is rhetorical.
The President promised that in the “coming weeks” he would begin the dialogue. Mr. Obama’s heart may be in the right place but he has done nothing to address the problem in his first term except to sign orders allowing weapons to be carried in national parks and on Amtrak trains. Despite the NRA’s despicable and disingenuous exhortation to voters that if Barack Obama was re-elected he would outlaw all private ownership of guns, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has given this administration an “F” for lack of effort to address the issue.
I’m not devout. Sadly, no God has ever spoken directly to me, though I wait. I believe that God gives us brains and a moral compass and expects us to figure things out in a reasonable, rational process. And I also believe events sometimes occur which we ought to take as signs, divine or otherwise, that we’re on the wrong track. I believe we ought to think carefully about getting on that helicopter when it hovers over us. For now, I believe the President needs to nut up.