This week a pair of gunmen stormed the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California dressed in dark tactical gear and heavily armed with hand guns, assault-style weapons, and explosive devices. They killed 14 people and injured 17 others.
It will go down as the deadliest mass shooting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adults in 2012. That is, until another one takes its place. It could take days or weeks, perhaps months or years, but it will happen. After all, there have been more than 1,000 mass shootings since Sandy Hook. At least 1,312 people have been killed and another 3,764 have been wounded. In 2015 alone, there have been more mass shootings in the U.S. than there are days in the year.
Statistical numbness sets in after hearing such sad numbers following these incidents.
Meanwhile, after each shooting we are treated to a familiar loop. President Obama and Congressional Democrats call for sensible gun safety legislation. Conservatives and Congressional Republicans try to pin it all on mental health. The National Rifle Association trots out board member and 70s rock has-been Ted Nugent to say “[i]f it was up to me, if you uttered the word ‘gun control,’ we’d put you in jail.” or something equally offensive. Fox News devotes wall-to-wall coverage of the incident – if it can be tied to someone with dark skin. And we all make sure our friends on Facebook and Twitter know our “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and their families.
Then nothing. The media stops discussing the story, the politicians start talking about something else, the NRA pats itself on the back when Congress fails to act, we move onto sharing the latest grumpy cat GIFs on social media, and we wait for the next mass shooting to begin the loop anew.
This vicious cycle is often colored with tired political rhetoric.
In 1959, Fred A. Roff, Jr. then president of the Colt Patent Fire Arms Company, gave birth to the granddaddy of gun-nut spin when he told the Associated Press, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” It is a phrase that has gone on to become wildly popular among those opposed to even the most basic gun safety measures.
Even so, roughly 90 percent of all Americans – including 88 percent of gun owners and 86 percent of NRA members – think all gun buyers should be required to “pass a criminal background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from.” Similarly, more than 80 percent of Americans support “renewing the federal ban on assault weapons” and nearly 75 percent are in favor of banning “gun clips that hold more than 10 bullets at a time.”
Confronted by such lopsided support for gun control and such startling Congressional inaction, I would take Roff’s sentiment a step further: Guns don’t kill people, complacent liberals do.
It is easy to blame the NRA and Republicans in Congress. They deserve the lion’s share of the culpability but pointing the finger in their direction changes nothing. Looking in the mirror and recognizing our own complacency may be uncomfortable but the real change we are after will never come to fruition if we fail to evaluate our own role in this massive failure of public policy.
We tell pollsters we support sensible gun safety legislation and then we can not be bothered to show up and vote unless President Obama is on the ballot. We express horror every week – often daily – when another mass shooting shakes another American neighborhood and yet we do not vote. We blame Congress for doing nothing to stop these shootings from happening and when push comes to shove we do not show up at the polls to hold them accountable for their dithering.
President Obama was elected in 2008 and 2012 while Democrats lost 12 governorships, 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats, and more than 900 state legislative seats during the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections. If Obama’s coalition turned out during these important cycles when the President is not on the ballot but state legislative and Congressional contests are, passing sensible gun safety measurers would not be the hopeless quest it has become.
Yes, the NRA is powerful but they are only successful at perpetuating this bloody status quo because we do not vote when it really matters and it always matters. Just ask the families of the 12 thousand men, women, and children who lose their lives to gun violence each year.
Copyright 2015 Karl Frisch, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-969-2829 to carry Karl’s column in your publication.