Yes, I know I said I wasn’t going to write any more columns on gun control, largely because the exercise is:
2. A waste of time.
But with Congress taking up the issue again and Washington awash with hypocrisy amid rumors of progress, it is a time that cries out for comment. Progress? Seriously? The Senate has agreed to debate the issue. That’s the progress.
The gun lobbies have our legislature of cowardly lions in their teeth and are shaking them like ragdolls. God, it must be awful to be a politician, particularly a Republican, these days — afraid of your own shadow, being forced by bullying lobbyists to stand there and smile while they shove beans up your nose.
Our government has reached a stage of dysfunction not seen since the 1850s, when Congress was guiding us toward civil war. When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union followed suit, we became the most powerful nation on earth, virtually unchallenged in our supremacy.
And how did we use that power? To become stupid. We gave ourselves over to greed, jingoistic militarism, and anti-intellectualism. Now, far from being the most powerful nation on earth, we’re unable to do anything.
We can’t regulate gun sales, we can’t do anything about unemployment, we can’t even decide whether to pay our bills. And as far as building roads and bridges, investing in our kids, providing people with health care…fuhgeddaboudit.
There was a time, not so long ago, when you could say “People shouldn’t be allowed to own machine guns” and not start a riot over what constitutes a machine gun. You could say “People should be required to obtain licenses in order to own a gun” and get nods of encouragement rather than abusive mail.
No more. We’re paralyzed by the ersatz arguments you’re hearing from the Senate right now. My least favorite among them is the “Cars kill a lot more people than guns. Are you going to ban those too?” No, we’ll simply continue to license them and make people pass a test before they can use them — as we should be doing with guns.
My second-least favorite argument: The mythical little old lady who would be left defenseless before an intruder climbing in through her bedroom window. Do we want to leave her to her fate? No, but she’s an unusual little old lady indeed if she shoots the miscreant with an AK-47. Say “assault weapons ban” to a gun nut and he or she immediately switches the debate to handguns.
Not that handguns are all they’re cracked up to be.
Joe Nocera of The New York Times publishes a “gun report” on his blog, each day listing the previous day’s shootings throughout the nation. A six-year-old boy is shot to death by his four-year-old neighbor in New Jersey, a three-year-old in South Carolina finds a gun in his home and manages to kill himself, a 20-year-old shoots and kills his sister’s boyfriend while showing him a gun, a 44-year-old man is fatally shot by his son while sitting on his front porch in Texas, a 21-year-old shoots his five-month old son with a rifle in Utah, a 13-year-old is executed gangland style by a bullet in the back of the head in Texas.
On and on it goes, children shooting their parents, parents their children, innocent bystanders cut down by crossfire, suicides, murders, accidents…all in the name of the right to bear arms. Very, very, very few anybodies who shoot intruders coming through their windows are mentioned. And none of those intruders use assault rifles.
By Donald Kaul
OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.