The other night on a local news broadcast, there was a woman talking about gun violence. They identified her by name and said that her daughter had been a victim of gun violence. She had a sadness in her eyes as she said, "Something has to be done. But first we need to stop shouting at each other."
(At first, I thought she had said that we need to stop shooting at each other, but then I realized that she had said "shouting." Both would be good ideas.)
A couple days ago, it was the third anniversary of those elementary school kids getting slaughtered in their classrooms just before Christmas. When I first heard about it, I had the most horrible thought. I remember thinking, "I wonder if there's a video of it. Maybe if there is, we might be able to get something done."
I no longer believe that. After that massacre, the National Rifle Association tightened its vise-like grip on the microscopic collective scrotum of Congress and even managed to get some state legislatures (like Arizona's, the worst in all of America) to make it even easier for crazy people to get and use guns.
A few months ago, a guy emailed me and wrote: "You just don't get it. Don't you understand that me exercising my Second Amendment rights is what protects your First Amendment rights?"
I answered him and began with, "That would be 'my exercising my Second Amendment rights.' It's a gerund." I have found that pissed-off people have a tendency to warm right up to you if you correct their grammar, syntax, and/or punctuation. (I also found it hilarious that he would capitalize Second Amendment, but not first.)
I did my best to explain to him that his owning or firing or fondling a gun had absolutely nothing to do with my First Amendment rights. I can talk all the crap in the world without my or anybody else owning a gun. His arsenal doesn't protect me from the imaginary government boogey man. It doesn't protect me from ISIS. And it doesn't protect me from the Ted Kaczynski clone whose tin-foil hat picks up Carly Fiorina lying her ass off about what goes on at Planned Parenthood, after which he goes on a rampage.
We exchanged emails for a while and didn't agree on anything, but we weren't shouting. Unfortunately, I couldn't even get him to agree that the amendments aren't absolute. I pointed out that even during Prohibition people could get alcohol by medical prescription. It's really cool. You can go on the website of the Smithsonian and they have one of the original prescription forms, including a line that asks "Ailment For Which Prescribed."
Next time you're with a politician or one of your gun-nut buddies or co-workers, give this a try. Ask them to complete this sentence: "If there were no guns in the United States, __________________________." You'll be stunned and dismayed at how many will jerk their knees and say "...then only criminals will have guns."
Then you have to go back and repeat it. "If there were NO guns in the United States, ______________________." The next response you'll get is, "Well, people will still kill each other with knives or sticks or swords." That may be true, but we wouldn't have the mass killings we have today. You're not going to have a woman from Pakistan killing 14 people with a stick, nor would a frail nutbird be able to walk into an elementary school and slaughter 20 kids and six adults with a knife.
Keeping guns away from crazy people wouldn't make them less crazy. But it would make them less dangerous.
A guy I know hates the liberal media and thinks that the focus on mass shootings is a left-wing conspiracy that could lead to gun confiscation. He loves to point out that there was a mass shooting "in Sweden, of all places." Yeah, except it was in Norway, but we all make that mistake.
Mass shootings have indeed happened in other countries. Between 2009 and 2013, there were three mass shootings in Germany, and two each in Finland, Canada, Switzerland, and Israel. During that same time period, there was also one each in France, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and the aforementioned one in Norway.
In the United States, there were 38. How can anybody think that's okay, that it's the price we pay as a country for unfettered gun ownership?
Late in his life, Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes fame lamented the fact that he would not live to see peace in the Middle East between Israel and its Arab neighbors. He said that, on a couple occasions, he thought that there might be a chance, but the opportunity always turned out to have been a mirage or a false hope.
I know that feeling. I used to think that America would mature as a country and reject mindless gun violence. I also voted for George McGovern.
There are small signs of hope. I read recently that the percentage of Americans who own guns has gone down from around 50 percent in the 1970s to just over 30 percent today. That doesn't mean that in another 45 years, it will be down to 10 percent. However, I'm willing to wait around and see.