Yesterday I found myself in the company of 150 people from all over the United States who came to Washington, DC because they want to do something about gun violence. What they don’t want to do is entertain the stupid idea that more guns will protect us from violence and crime. That crap used to be promoted only by connivers like John Lott who used this insultingly unfounded nonsense to build a following on the red-meat lecture tour. But now it’s been taken up by lackluster, red-striped Presidential wannabes who will stoop no matter how low to try and spear a few votes. The group that convened in DC was decidedly of a different sort.
It was an eclectic assemblage, representing national and state-level advocacy groups, political and policy experts from within the Beltway and without, researchers, activists from all over the place, in every respect a serious-minded and, more important, an energetic group of folks. I have been following the gun debate going back to the 1960s; in other words, before there was a real debate. And I don’t remember a time when so many different types of people from so many different backgrounds were as committed to serious and continuous efforts to reduce or eliminate the violence caused by guns. And just in case any NRA sycophant or 2nd-Amendment devotee wants to argue the case, let me make one thing completely and perfectly clear: it’s the gun stupid, it’s the gun.
So I sat, watched and listened to speakers at the National Gun Violence Prevention Coalition Annual Meeting and I came away with the following thoughts. First, the level of gun violence, both mass shootings and individual events, can no longer be justified or excused just because the 2nd Amendment protects individual gun rights. Since August, for example, there’s been a guy or maybe guys who have been shooting at motorists riding through Phoenix on Interstate 10. To date there have been at least eleven confirmed shootings, and the only good news is that’s it not that easy to hit someone in a moving car.
Now if you can explain to me how a lawfully-armed citizen walking around with his or her gun should be considered as a bulwark against this kind of crime, I’ll meet you tomorrow at the Morton’s Steakhouse of your choice and pick up the tab. According to the Gun Violence Archive, by year’s end the death toll from shootings may exceed last year’s number by 20 percent. The day in, day out reports of what appears to be an endless spiral of gun violence has clearly aroused more than its usual share of concern, and this concern was clearly evident at the DC conference this past week.
The NRA’s response to this situation is to have Chris Cox find an instance where an individual, in this case Vester Flanagan, used a legally-purchased gun to commit mayhem, the “proof’ that more laws won’t do anything to stop violence caused by guns. This argument is so dumb I’m surprised that even a twit like Cox would try to foist it on the members of the NRA. To follow his logic, the next time that there’s a pile-up on the Interstate we’ll understand why speed limits don’t help to save lives.
I spent a few minutes at the conference speaking quietly and emotionally to the parents of a young man who was among the 12 audience members killed in Aurora by James Holmes. They told me they needed to help prevent more tragedies like the tragedy that resulted in the loss of their son. I told them I don’t think it’s possible to understand what happened in Aurora in rational terms, but what they are doing will have a rational and objective end. And the end will be that gun violence will disappear because ways will be found to respond to their courage and their strength. There is, after all, a moral imperative called Thou Shalt Not Kill.