At first, I hardly winced after first learning of the devastating shooting in Orlando early Sunday morning. “Jesus,” I thought. I scanned a few articles on the tragedy, my attention abbreviated by text messages from friends about where to go for brunch. After all, we’ve witnessed 133 mass shootings in America in the first 164 days of 2016. This is par for the course.
Sitting with friends at a D.C. restaurant later in the morning, a bad taste in my mouth intensified. It wasn’t the hollandaise on my Eggs Benedict. At least 50 casualties had been confirmed in Orlando, making it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history — a distinction that just hours earlier had been held by my alma mater, Virginia Tech. The shooter had been investigated twice by the F.B.I. Still, he was able to easily arm himself with military-grade weaponry. And the christians were quick to pile on their misguided, hypocritical vitriol, calling the tragedy a show of their god’s condemnation of the LGBT community. My, has ISIS found a cheerleader in the likes of hard-right evangelicals? This might be a topic for another day.(Editorial note: The use of lowercase is intentional, not to be confused with my God and neighbor-loving Christians.)
Listening to the radio while driving home, the deejay urged listeners to send “thoughts and prayers” to Orlando. Thoughts and prayers? Thoughts and prayers are the stuff of the vapid political speech we endure in the aftermath of such tragedies. It’s empty and meaningless. We don’t need thoughts and prayers.
“Thoughts and prayers?”
We need to hold people accountable. Politicians, businesses, maybe you.
Congress cowered to the gun lobby a long time ago. If you needed more recent evidence of that, consider that just one day after the San Bernardino shooting that claimed 14 lives, Senate Republicans rejected a bill that aimed to stop suspected terrorists from legally buying guns. And a report by the Government Accountability Office found that, between 2004 and 2014, more than 2,000 suspected terrorists legally purchased handguns and assault-style rifles.
The N.R.A. and other gun lobby groups were vehemently opposed to that bill, and virtually any attempt to regulate firearms, including restrictions on owning assault weapons, retention of databases of gun purchases, background checks on purchasers at gun shows and changes in the registration of firearms.
Why in God’s blood-stained Earth would the gun lobby be so opposed to such approaches that are so duh to the rest of us? It’s a brilliant business model, really.
When tragedy strikes, the gun lobby rolls out their standard narrative: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun! // An armed society is a polite society! // Video games are making our children violent! // Acceptance of transgender people is twisted and perverted! // Barrack Hussein Obama is coming to take your guns!”
And so, for fear that the “gun grab” and/or Doomsday is surely imminent, gun sales spike, padding the profits of the N.R.A.’s gun-manufacturing members. And the cycle continues.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the desire to defend yourself, your family and your property. There is, however, something grotesquely wrong with the gun lobby’s perverted interpretation of the Second Amendment and the inflated societal value it suggests it provides Americans.
The N.R.A. claims that firearms are used millions of times annually for self-defense purposes. This has been debunked. The use of guns in self-defense by private citizens is extremely rare. A study of F.B.I. data by the Violence Policy Center found that:
- In 2013, there were only 211 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm. That same year, there were 7,838 criminal gun homicides. Guns were used in 37 criminal homicides for every justifiable homicide.
- Intended victims of violent crimes engaged in self-protective behavior that involved a firearm in less than 1 percent of attempted and completed incidents between 2012 and 2014.
- Intended victims of property crimes engaged in self-protective behavior that involved a firearm in 0.2 percent of attempted and completed incidents between 2012 and 2014.
We could go on endlessly myth-busting the gun lobby. Sadly, narrative transportation theory explains that, despite sound facts and research (another thing the gun lobby has been trying to kill for years), gun fetishists have a remarkable ability to be lost in it all and will likely stay rapt in Wayne LaPierre’s fear-mongering spiels.
Would mirroring our gun laws more closely to, say, that of the U.K.’s guarantee we’ll never see another mass shooting in our future? Of course not. But, when we’re losing more than 30,000 Americans per year to some form of gun violence, we could guarantee many lives would be saved.
Oh, I can hear it now. “If guns kill people, then pencils misspell words, cars drive drunk and spoons make people fat!” This illiterate, drunk fat ass must know that it’s how people use these objects that is always the reason the bad things that could happen do happen.
Guns are designed expressly to kill. Guns can turn an argument into a funeral. Guns can make a suicide attempt lethal. Guns enable a sick man to mow down a classroom of six-year-olds in minutes. Guns turn an extremist into a mass-murderer. Therefore, guns deserve to be well-regulated. But because they are not, ISIS and extremists of all varieties have found an ideal accomplice in the gun lobby and its gun-fetishist followers.
Here’s the bottom line: the buck stops with you. If you can support the gun lobby’s extreme policy advocacy, suck your teeth at today’s tragedy and brush it off as merely the “price of freedom,” you should be shamed as criminally stupid. If you’re clinging to your guns and N.R.A. membership cards while turning a blind eye to the facts and commonsense gun-control efforts, Orlando is your fault. You have blood on your hands.
When you think you’ve nearly scrubbed the flesh off your bones, there are some things you can do. Divest from the gun industry. Call on elected officials and tell them you’re sick of the gun lobby’s influence on our lives. Support groups like Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady or the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to stay informed.
No single post, petition or law will have a perfect solution. But collectively, we can do better, and we must do better.