First comes the tragedy. Then comes the shock and the news coverage and the funerals. And then comes the outraged pundits, the politicians and the gun lobbyists. And then the talk, talk, talk shows led by puppy-eyed hosts watched by a sobbing, hand-wringing nation. We will talk about what to do, we will lament our violent culture, we will give lip service to mental health, and we will walk past the gun lobby like cowards whistling past a cemetery. A few days after the dirt has dried atop the caskets another shooting will happen and then comes the shock and the news coverage and the funerals and so it goes, drop of blood by drop of innocent blood that pours in such a familiar trickle we simply sigh and move on.
And then there are the thousands of arguments to be spoken and written on the subject again and again. If you favor sensible regulation, as I do, be prepared to provoke a hurricane of rage.
Do not waste your time establishing moral authority. I always feel obligated to tell my gun advocate friends I spring from a gun family or that I proudly count among my friends gunsmiths, gun shop owners and enthusiasts. A one-time member of the NRA, at the range I liked the M-16 the best. This means nothing to them. You can be the survivor of a mass shooting or a widow or an orphan or the parent of a dead child pleading for reasonable action and still they are unmoved from their rigid position.
Do not waste your time learning the statistics regarding firearms and mass murder in America. The heart of the debate is strictly emotional. Tell your friend we have more guns than grains of sand and he’ll tell you a granny in Ames blew away a rapist with her AK-47 and another pointless exchange will become history.
Do not waste your breath on gun ban arguments. Banning all guns is a preposterous delusion and is the loony radical counterpoint to the loony radicalism of the formerly sane NRA at the other end of the spectrum.
Do not waste your time dissecting the Second Amendment with Constitutional psychics. The Courts have spoken. Firearms can be regulated. Simply know our Founding Fathers would put their muskets to their foreheads if they saw what terrible fruit their ambiguous amendment has borne.
Be prepared for your gun friends to search for synonyms for ”moron” because “Un-American” just doesn’t capture the depth of knee-jerk reaction to the unthinkable notion of requiring permits and training for possession of concealed weapons, restoring the ban on combat-style weapons, eliminating gun purchase loopholes, registering firearms, and banning high-capacity clips. Such reasonable proposals are always met with the extreme slippery slope trope which ends the discussion.
When my friends on the right hear the words “immigration reform” all they hear is “amnesty” and the discussion is over. No matter how many times one says “I believe in the Second Amendment right to bear arms” my gun friends can’t hear me. Dare to utter the phrase “ gun laws” and all they hear is ,” the government is coming to take my gun!” Dizzy with perplexed rage at your audacity and foolishness they see visions of black helicopters and “Red Dawn” invaders as their hearts pound with NRA membership card clutching terror.
And hawking that paranoid fantasy is at the heart of the gun lobby’s success. Few of my gun friends can resists the romantic notion that they are lone messianic voices protecting our republic and our glorious way of death from the evil gun snatchers. It makes an ordinary life terribly meaningful.
Twenty children die in a kindergarten and we mute our outrage because a gun lobby built upon promoting this powerful irrational prophecy owns the cowards in Washington.
Don’t waste your time pointing out how this “Red Dawn meets 1984” script is absurd and would lead to 100,000 Ruby Ridges burning across an apocalyptic America because no American including me is willing to surrender his or her right to self defense. You’re never going to convince the firearm faithful that their fear of a government that can’t even cleanse a rural Afghan village of firepower is a cartoonish fabrication.
Many of my fellow citizens, including many reasonable gun owners hold the heretical belief that the right to own our guns is not sacrosanct. The First Amendment is conditional. All of our rights have limits that we, the people, have agreed upon and we, the overwhelming majority of Americans, hold that gun ownership is not more pure and sacred than the lives of innocents.
And we are weary of the conversation. My friends who are firearm fundamentalists will have to accept that we are heart broken and unenthusiastic about hearing their zealous arguments this week.
Instead of quarreling, light a candle. On this Friday, one week from the day of the massacre, in loving remembrance of the children of Newtown, and in memory of all of the beautiful lights among us that have been extinguished by gun violence this year and in years past, in an expression of national outrage at our nation's inability to engage in meaningful constructive action let us do something small and simple. In an expression of grief over what has become of us, in a clear expression of our solidarity with those who favor sane and reasonable gun laws and with those who favor full support for mental health care we will darken our holiday lights for one hour at sunset. In that quiet darkness we will light a candle, pray for the dead, and pray our nation’s leaders will see the light.