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Saturday, October 22, 2016

You frequently find fortune cookie aphorisms, yes, but it’s not often that you find searing insight within Twitter’s 140-character confines. Which is why a June tweet from one Dan Hodges — his profile describes him as a British political commentator — stood out.

“In retrospect,” wrote Hodges, “Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

You may cringe to hear the nation’s response to the December 2012 massacre of 20 young children — six adults also died — at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, described in that fashion, but you can’t deny the brutal truth of the observation.

After Sandy Hook, President Obama called for new legislative initiatives, saying, “Surely we can do better than this.” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said, “We need action.” Rep. John Larson said, “Politics be damned.” Parents of one victim walked the halls of Congress carrying pictures of their dead son and beseeching lawmakers to look, even as polls showed nearly 60 percent of Americans wanted stronger gun laws.

And nothing happened. In deciding between its children and its guns, America had decided the loss of the former was, in Hodges’ chilling word, “bearable.”

The memory of it haunts a Sunday interview CNN did with Andy Parker, the father of Roanoke, Virginia, TV reporter Alison Parker, who was murdered live on camera last week by a hateful and deranged man named Vester Flanagan. In vowing to commit his life to achieving sensible gun control, Parker said a number of striking things.

“I’m telling you,” he said, “they messed with the wrong family.”

“I’m going to be working on this for a long time,” he said. “I know that this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

He acknowledged that we have seen many “tipping points” where guns are concerned: the shooting of a congresswoman and her constituents at a supermarket, a mass murder at a movie theater, the Christmas season butchery of schoolchildren in Newtown. “But,” he said, sounding like nothing so much as a father who very much loved his daughter, “I think people recognizing who the victim was and what she represented and how kind and sweet and innocent she was, I think this time it’s going to be different.”

It’s always going to be different. But it never is.

With all due deference to a father’s incalculable sorrow, the likeliest outcome here is that the murder of Alison Parker and her colleague Adam Ward and the wounding of local official Vicki Gardner will join the long line of tipping points that didn’t tip and turning points that didn’t turn. Which is why Parker’s words inspire no great hope, but only break your heart.

The sad thing is, there is no — repeat: no — inherent or insoluble conflict between the desire of some of us to have access to guns for sport and self-defense and the desire of others of us to keep dangerous people from possessing those weapons. Decent, moderate people, working from both sides of the question, could probably hammer out ideas to safeguard both imperatives in an afternoon.

Problem is, gun owners’ interests are represented not by decent, moderate people, but by the NRA, an extremist gang for whom even the most modest regulation is a brick in the road to tyranny. So long as the NRA has such an outsized voice in this debate, so long as politicians, unencumbered by conscience or vertebrae, tremble to its call, and so long as many of us are silent and supine in the face of that obscenity, Hodges is correct. And we are doomed to a future of frequent, predictable and preventable tragedies some of us will mistake for freedom.

It makes you wonder. If that kind of thing is really “bearable” then what, pray tell, is not?

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132. Readers may contact him via email at [email protected])

Photo: Peretz Partensky via Flickr

  • FireBaron

    And as has been shown time and again, the NRA represents the interests of the Firearms Manufacturers (especially non-US based firms) and the Firearms dealers – especially those who get 50% or more of their business from gun shows, not OTC retail sales in stores.

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  • Otto Greif

    What law would have prevented Sandy Hook?

    • dtgraham

      Well, lets suppose that in order to get his weapon the Sandy Hook shooter had to attend a weekend long American firearms acquisition course at a cost of $320.00 (and he HAS to receive a passing grade).

      Then after that, he had to apply to the FBI for a possession and acquisition license. At that point he would then have to submit to a thorough background search and provide three references. Then those three references would be interviewed separately.

      After that an FBI agent would visit his house to investigate his means of storage—a separate safe for the gun and ammo, and a trigger lock. Then there would be a 28 day waiting period, after which he would finally get his gun. That might have done it, although no guarantees.

      It would prevent some mass killings for sure.

      • Otto Greif

        His mother purchased the firearms.

        • dtgraham

          Actually, I was talking about the RCMP PAL laws (possession and acquisition laws) and just substituted FBI for RCMP, and the non-existent American firearms acquisition course for the RCMP firearms acquisition course.

          A prominent Toronto lawyer once blogged in to a Canadian website about his experiences purchasing a shotgun and I just basically copied his post.

        • SophieCT

          Wouldn’t the burden be on the person who did pass to firearms acquisition course to keep their weapons secure from any residents or visitors who had not? People with a swimming pool are required to keep it fenced and put a lock on the fence.

          • Otto Greif

            That may have crossed her mind her right before he shot her.

      • KARockhound

        Add to that an annual inspection, license renewal proof of insurance.

        • dtgraham

          Good add ons. I frankly don’t know whether this exists in Canada or not, as I’ve never even so much as touched a gun let alone owned one.

      • David

        What part of “…shall not be infringed.” do you not understand?
        MoLon labe!

        • Joan

          Read the whole thing. It speaks to the formation of a militia for the protection of the U.S. in place of a standing army. Common sense gun legislation would not violate either the letter nor the spirit of the 2nd amendment. I study both American history and the law.

          • David

            Really? Since you are studied in American History and the law. Can you tell me what the term “militia” meant in 1776?

          • David

            No reply? Well, to help you, the term means “every able bodied man”. It was/is important that citizens be armed. It had nothing to do about the colonists being able to go hunting. “The tree of Liberty needs to be watered from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots.” Do you know who said that? Where do you study law?

        • dtgraham

          Certain types of weapons like fully automatics are already banned and there are background checks required for certain gun purchases even if there are too many loopholes in that. The point being, there are already infringements.

          If you want to walk around with a rocket propelled grenade launcher on you, you’ll be a dead man with that MoLon labe attitude. Law enforcement will be telling your corpse, “yeah we came and got it.”

          • David

            You are wrong. Ownership of fully automatic weapons is not banned. You just have to get a Class III license for one. That may frighten you Canadians, but that is the way it is down here. An armed citizenry is the final check on a tyrannical government.
            Merely “walking around with a rocket propelled grenade launcher” doesn’t in and of itself give permission for law enforcement to use lethal force. Read our law.
            MoLon labe

          • dtgraham

            I’d like to reply but can’t. Google Chrome just isn’t responding today to the National Memo emails. I’m surprised it let me type this much.

          • David

            Pay your bill!!!! Lol!!!

  • tdm3624

    The problem is that in order to have an agreement that would preserve the freedom of Americans to own/operate firearms and at the same time limit access to the firearms by those who shouldn’t have them, requires trust. I don’t think many gun-owners trust that gun-control advocates would stop pushing for more regulations even after a hypothetical bi-partisan agreement was reached. If trust could be built and demonstrated, then maybe a solution could be found.

    • charleo1

      To say gun owners lack trust in the control advocates, whoever they are. Since 91% of the public supports universal background checks, and closing the gun show loophole. The NRA’s problem is the NRA has no compromise position on anything, period. Therefore, it’s not about solutions that might help prevent some of America’s most violent, and disturbed people from getting their hands on any weapon sold. It’s about making sure no sale of any gun anywhere is ever impeded in any way, irrespective of the cost society at large continuers to pay. One more clear example of a government, and it’s people, held powerless by a well funded Congressional Lobby.

  • KDJ54

    If only the
    Sandy Hook children had been fetuses, then we could’ve gotten some real action
    on solving the problem of gun violence.
    Once we’re out of the womb, the NRA’s version of the 2nd
    Amendment demands that the rest of us should be happy with a lesser expectation
    of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  • jam

    Mr. Pitts, folks like you are the type of person who s/b running things in Congress.
    What a beautifully written piece, it broke my heart all over again.
    What the hell kind of country have we become?!? Does nothing humane get done because we have a black man in the “White House”?
    Is that what the inaction is all about?
    Please keep bringing this subject up, over and over again.
    We are better than this.

  • David

    What is not bearable is this tripe masquerading as journalIsm being spread. What part of “…shall not be infrInged.” do you not understand?
    Molon labe

    • Rebecca Gardner

      What part of “A well regulated militia” do you not understand. It helps to read the entire amendment. You can’t cherry pick the Constitution like everyone does the Bible. I’m a gun owner and former firearms instructor and what is happening in America is insanity. We cannot ignore this fact any longer.

      • David

        I doubt very seriously you were a “firearms instructor”. I know very well what “well regulated militia” means. I ask you to research what the term “militia” meant when the Bill of Rights were drafted. If you do, and have intellectual integrity, come back and post what you learn.
        Molon labe

        • Rebecca Gardner

          Doubt it all you like but the fact is I was a Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Personal Protection Inside the Home, and Personal Protection Outside the Home instructor. I’m also classified as an SSP Master in an IDPA classifier with my H&K USP Compact chambered for .40S&W. Missed Master by 2 seconds. Will have to try again.

          • David

            Not bad. When I shoot IDPA it is with a customized Glock 17. I am a Master class USPSA shooter. Competed with a Wilson .38 Super 1911. What rifle/carbine/shotgun do you use?
            When you look up “militia”, you will find that the word meant “able bodied men”. That is, those having the ability to go take up arms for the common defense. Defense against foreign enemies and a tyrannical government. The 2nd Amendment ain’t about duck hunting.
            Molon labe

          • Rebecca Gardner

            I’m not arguing the 2nd Amendment. I’m arguing for some common sense solutions to a very real problem that exists in America today. Right now I am more likely to be killed by a gun than I am in a car accident. That’s insane. There is no infringement on my 2nd Amendment right as a U.S. citizen to require a background check and a 10 day waiting period. Something as simple as that instituted Federally and applied to 100% of all gun sales will have no impact on my ability to purchase and own a firearm. However, it will prevent those who really should not have a firearm from obtaining one legally. Is this 100% fool-proof, going to prevent all shootings? Of course not, but if it saves just one life each day it is better than doing nothing which is what we are doing now. We need to start somewhere.

            If a consumer product gave a child something as simple as a paper cut there would be public outrage, hearing committees, and new product safety laws. Yet dozens, upon dozens, upon dozens, upon dozens of our children are senselessly murdered by gun violence every year and all we get is, “now is not the time to talk about this!” Well, when is the time to talk about it? Inaction is certainly not working.

          • David

            Sorry, what you said is not true. Gun homicides since 2010 average about 11,000 annually compared to death in car crashes which number between 32,000 and 33,000 per year for the same period of time. This is a liberal site. There is already a background check when you buy a weapon from a dealer. Why should I have to wait 10 days to exercise my Constitutional rights? Oh, I know, I will likely “cool off” and not shoot someone. Right!
            So, tell me what kind of rifle/carbine/shotgun do you use?

          • Rebecca Gardner

            I’m mostly into pistols. My favorite rifle though is my Mause 98k with all matching numbers from WWII. It’s a nail driver. So much fun to plink steel with 100s of yards out.

          • David

            Mauser 98k is a little old! A Remington 700 action with a Krieger or McMillan barrel in .308 would be nice. I like my Glick (death by Tupperware) for carry. You?
            Molon labe

  • 13factfinder

    The NRA is like Trump; no BS or P.C. crap….just “in your face”, no compromise conviction for the people they represent and that is why they are so damn popular ! If the majority of Americans truly wanted more gun control or amnesty; it would have happened by now. The fact is liberals just want to believe so bad that everyone thinks like they do. Their affirmation of support comes by skewed outcome based polling that results in a false narrative projected that is unfounded by fact. People are sick of the rhetorical platitudes trumpeted by the ant-gun crowd whose proverbial “day of reckoning” is near!
    TRUMP/CRUZ/NRA 2016!