There's an elephant in the room, and its name is "Newtown."
Sure, I could pretend it isn't there. Post something today similar to all my other posts in the past, an essay on writing or the writer's life that would amuse or inform but say nothing whatsoever about the nightmare we've all been living since last Friday. But I'm not going to do that. This seat I have at the Murderati round table is an opportunity to contribute to the discussion we as citizens of this great nation must have, and have now, regarding responsible gun ownership, if we are to avoid such horrific events in the future, and hell if I'm not going to take advantage of it.
We authors here at Muderati, as the blog's very name implies, write about murder every day. To varying degrees, death is our stock in trade. Whether we write about single-victim crimes of passion or serial killers who claim multiple lives, we are all deliberately counting on the perverse thrill readers find in the act of one person murdering another to sell books, so being silent on the subject of the Newtown massacre, as if we are wholly unqualified to discuss such matters, would seem somewhat cowardly to me. None of us have all the answers --- we barely know all the questions --- but I'm certain each of us has some idea why those 26 people --- 20 of them small children --- died in Newtown, Connecticut, last week, and what we can do --- what we must do --- to try and make it the last tragedy of its kind on American soil.
I've decided to couch my statement, such as it is, in the form of a point-by-point response to what I believe is the general attitude most intelligent, reasonable gun rights advocates have toward this crisis, based upon the online comments I've seen some make on Facebook and elsewhere. That attitude goes something like this:
- First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost children in the Sandy Hill Elementary School shooting. No one grieves for those kids or their parents more than we do.
- However, what happened in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday was not about guns. It was about mental illness.
- No gun control law could have prevented this tragedy.
- Further, no gun control law can ever guarantee that such terrible events will not occur in the future.
- Gun control laws only serve to inhibit the ability of law-abiding citizens to secure weapons of self-defense. Properly motivated, criminals and the mentally disturbed will always find ways to arm themselves.
- Any attempt by the government to limit the kind of weapons a U.S. citizen can legally acquire is an infringement upon our Constitutional right to bear arms, and should be viewed as the first step down the slippery slope that inevitably leads to tyranny.
- We can't allow the emotions of the moment to spur us into taking legislative actions we may regret later.
- As tragic and heartbreaking as the deaths of 20 innocent children are, this is a relatively small price to pay for the freedoms our Founding Fathers granted us.
To which I would reply:
- I'm quite sure this is true.
- Actually, it was about mental illness combined with a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and two handguns: a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm. All legally purchased by the shooter's mother, who needed such an arsenal for self-defense like Donald Trump needs a home equity loan.
- Prevented? Perhaps not. But a ban on the AR-15 --- such as that which was in effect until 2004, when Congress repealed it --- would have gone a long way toward making this tragedy infinitely less deadly.
- Can we please stop talking about gun control as if it has to eliminate every gun-related homicide for all time in order to serve any purpose? Traffic laws don't prevent all speed-related accidents, but surely we can agree that our streets are a hell of a lot safer with such laws in effect. Merriam-Webster defines "control," in part, as "to reduce the incidence or severity of especially to innocuous levels." Get it? Gun control is about the reduction of gun-related crime, not the eradication of it. Opposing any form of gun control on the grounds it can't accomplish the impossible is both foolish and indefensible.
- Again, sensible gun control laws aren't designed to keep guns out of the hands of every bad person who wants one --- they're simply designed to make the task of acquiring a gun as difficult as possible for criminals and the mentally unstable. Sure, a highly motivated nutcase could probably find someone somewhere to sell him an illegal handgun, but not with the ease of going down to his local gun show and picking one off the shelf, no questions asked. Gun control laws create layers of complexity in the process of acquiring a firearm that not every criminal or would-be murderer is up to dealing with. Dissuading those who would use a gun to harm others from seeking one out is the logical first step in preventing gun-related homicides, and it shouldn't be dismissed as ineffectual simply because its reach is not absolute.
- I don't want to say this is paranoid bullshit, but it's paranoid bullshit. Every law ever enacted could potentially lead to a slippery slope; slippery slopes are everywhere if one cares to look for them. Our government is imperfect, and it deserves something far less than our unquestioning trust, but staying up at night worrying about it becoming an authoritarian gulag any time soon is the rational equivalent of wearing a colander on your head to keep the Martians from reading your thoughts. While you fret over being ever-vigilant for the first signs of democracy's decay, kindergartners are being sacrificed at the altar of your ignorance. Wake up and take fresh stock of your priorities.
- On the contrary, no moment in our history has called out for us to change our way of thinking about guns with greater urgency than this one. If we don't do it now, we never will.
- I vehemently disagree, and suspect every parent who lost a child in Newtown, Connecticut, would as well.
I'm a father of four children. Up to now, I've been happy to watch the gun control debate from afar. Who needs my opinion? I write about crimes that are merely fictional, why should anyone care what I think?
But silence isn't going to work for me any more. Whether twenty children dead is sufficient cause for others to demand change or not, it is more than enough for me.
To those of you still unmoved, clinging yet to the idea that we dare not let what happened in Newtown inspire us to question the sanctity of our Second Amendment rights, I will leave you with a comment I made to a similarly recalcitrant gun-rights advocate on Facebook earlier this week:
"We can't keep giving these people EASY access to WEAPONS DESIGNED FOR WARFARE. The caps here are significant, because they're meant to make it clear that I am not advocating a ban on weapons reasonable people could own and use for self-defense, nor am I suggesting that there's anything we could do to keep ALL assault weapons out of the hands of crazy people. The time has come for us to MAKE IT SIGNIFICANTLY MORE DIFFICULT for average citizens to buy any kind of weapon that can kill dozens of people in a matter of seconds. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, can make an intelligent argument for allowing people like you and me, let alone sick bastards like the Newtown shooter, to buy a fucking assault rifle that does not boil down to 'because it would be fun to play with, and the Constitution says I should have the right.' And don't give me any of that 'well-armed militia' crap, either, because that's just a crux people use to justify the war games they like to play in their backyard. If the death of 20 kids in the span of a half-hour isn't enough to convince you people that something about the way we worship the Almighty 2nd Amendment in this country has to change, how many dead kids WILL it take? 40? 100? What's the number that'll finally move you to surrender your right to legally buy a goddamn AR-15?"
I'm still waiting for his answer.