Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted“It is heartbreaking and sickening to see how routine mass shootings have become in America. … The Senate needs to pass gun safety legislation and protect our children.
editorial pages and columnists almost uniformly echoes this line of thinking. And those who are increasingly seen as the moral leaders of our nation – professionals athletes and coaches, artists and talk show hosts — stepped in to rip Republicans apart and insist on more gun legislation. In fact, the whole Miami Heat Organization his stadium announcer urged fans gathered for a playoff game to call lawmakers and “leave a message demanding their support for common sense gun laws.”
What is striking about the examples above is that none included any mention – or even allusion – to the person responsible for the carnage. For the record, he was salvador ramos, an 18-year-old resident of Uvalde. He is the one who, according to the police, committed this atrocity before being killed by the police. Not acknowledging that the massacre was a human act – even choosing not to name the killer to avoid a “spillover effect” – encourages us to focus on the means of the murder rather than the perpetrator.
Yes, cold, hard political calculations are at play to focus on gun control. But also evident is a sense of unspoken helplessness that is at odds with a natural desire to convince ourselves that we are in control of our environment and our destiny. Believing that there is an obvious solution to something so horrible helps us cope.
The latest calls are to pass a law prohibiting 18-year-olds from buying guns. But the El Paso Walmart shooter was 21 years old. Orlando Nightclub Mass Killer was 29 years old. The author of the Las Vegas Strip Massacre was 64 years old. Still, maybe Republicans should give in and support banning 18-year-olds from buying guns and support stricter background checks, so everyone can claim they did something.
Biden wondered why mass killings are more common in the United States than in other countries that also have “lost people” and suffer from mental illness. In fact, the idea that gun violence occurs disproportionately here is misleading. The United States has only the 32nd highest rate deaths from gun violence worldwide, according to the latest statistics from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation.
But we are a developed and industrial country, people react and experts say countries with the highest levels of gun violence tend to be places in Central America and the Caribbean plagued by gangs and drug trafficking, as well as political and economic unrest. Aren’t these things growing problems here? Anyone who worries about gun violence in the United States should also worry about the fact that we have the highest drug-related death rate in the world since drugs and gun violence go hand in hand.
Still, Biden’s question is human. We all ask for it. Why? Motives are usually given for the actions of mass murderers, but the reasons are often resentments or hostilities felt by countless thousands of people who do not act violently. What separates most people from the handful whose minds travel to a place so dark that violence and bloodshed are the result?
Theories abound and are adopted to varying degrees according to political or social divisions. A macho gun culture? An entertainment industry that celebrates violence and portrays it too realistically? Mental illness ignored and poorly treated? Economic anxiety? The spiritual void of a nation that is moving away from God?
These are tough questions, but raising them often amounts to ridiculing those who want to blame guns and only guns.
No one has an answer that we can all agree on. Coming together is difficult. Crafting new gun restrictions, as difficult as it may be, is easier than delving into the truth that our gun violence problem has its roots in a problem of violence against people.
Addressing what really afflicts us will not happen in a week or a month with the stroke of a pen on a brand new piece of legislation. Instead, it requires something unlikely to happen – a bipartisan dialogue, with a willingness on each side to consider the other side’s position. Politics is the art of compromise, and compromise is the art of agreeing to things you don’t always believe in. Anyone want to lead?