In the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, we once again witness the phony rhetoric of death, so much of it from politicians who never do anything to make gun laws more sane in a country lousy and insane with guns. It was all as predictable as hearing that Monday wasn’t the day to talk about guns, and that Tuesday probably wouldn’t be such a good day, either, so close to what had just happened in Las Vegas.
But if you play out this kind of cockeyed thinking, from all those in Congress who genuflect in front of the National Rifle Association, from politicians and members of their pep squads who have pimped out the honorable and original intent of a Second Amendment originally written for muskets, there would never be a good day to have a gun debate in America. When would we find the time? We’ve averaged a mass shooting — one in which at least four people are shot — a day since Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. and murdered 20 children and six adults on Dec. 14, 2012.
We can’t wait for the gunfire to stop, because it doesn’t. Maybe we could have the conversation while the next active shooter is reloading.
Now it is Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas who kills more than twice as many as Lanza did, this time from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, with enough weaponry in his hotel room to invade California. This Paddock reminds you of Jimmy Breslin’s description of Lee Harvey Oswald and his “scrambled egg brain” and the cheap rifle Oswald used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. The difference, of course, between Oswald and Paddock is that the weaponry has become more expensive and sophisticated as our country has become this kind of killing field, at Sandy Hook Elementary and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and Virginia Tech University and now an outdoor concert in Las Vegas where 59 are assassinated and more than 500 are injured.
And what we are once again supposed to believe, especially from members of Congress for whom any moment of silence at a terrible American moment like this is full of unintended irony and symbolism, that the answer is for them to do what they did after Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech and Orlando and all the others. It means hide under their desks.
They also hide now behind the fact that Paddock, who kept buying guns until he owned 40, passed all of his background checks with flying colors. And never seem to ask how stronger background checks might actually prevent the next mass shooting in America, or the one after that, now that we are better at this kind of shooting than we are at baseball.
We keep hearing that there is no law passed that can legislate against the madness of what Paddock did on Sunday night. But the real madness is thinking that this country’s laws and policies about guns are working. Take a look at the map powerfully produced at Vox.com, one that shows all the mass shootings since Sandy Hook, a map covered with blood. Look at their stats about how the United States has 4.4% of the world’s population and almost half the civilian-owned guns, and how we basically average one mass shooting per day. Clearly when the subject is guns, the scrambled egg brains here are our own.
Remembering the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting
On Monday, astronaut Mark Kelly stood outside the Capitol Building in Washington next to his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who by the grace of God once survived a bullet fired into her head at a meet-and-greet in Tucson, Ariz.
“Your thoughts and prayers aren’t going to stop the next shooting,” Kelly said.
Then Kelly talked about all the gun-related deaths in America, including the suicides, and said that “the response from Congress has been to do nothing.”
It is a shameful crime of neglect, and cowardice. President Trump was praised for his somber tone when he spoke to the country on Monday about the mass shooting in Las Vegas. But what would his tone have been if it had been someone from radical Islam who had murdered all those innocent people? How loud would the reaction have been if it had been someone who had crossed the southern border illegally and then started shooting with some kind of modified automatic weapon from the Mandalay Bay?
“Does anybody think our gun laws are too strong?” Mark Kelly asked, standing next to the victim of gun violence to whom he is married.
Tell the families of the victims of Las Vegas that it’s not even worth talking about stronger background checks that might not have stopped Paddock, but might stop the next active shooter in America. Ask them why any automatic or semi-automatic weapon, any kind of long gun that can be turned into one, can still be legally owned by any civilian in this country, in what is supposed to be the most civilized country in the world.
Ask the families of the victims in Las Vegas if they think this is a good day to talk about guns.