Heartbreaking. Yesterday in Chicago, a fifteen-year-old was shot dead–evidently caught in the crossfire of a gang shoot-out. Just the week before, she’d been thrilled to participate with her school’s band in the Presidential inauguration. Like the children at Sandy Hook in Newtown, she was an innocent child who had her whole life ahead of her.
As we ate dinner last night, the television news reported on two other shootings. It also covered a portion of the Congressional hearing on the administration’s proposals for background checks and restrictions on the sales of large “magazines” that allow a shooter to rapidly fire multiple shots without reloading–including, poignantly, halting testimony from Gabby Gifford, the Congresswoman shot in the head in Phoenix while meeting with her constituents. The cost of her miraculous survival was on full display–this formerly vibrant woman is now partially blind, able to form words only with great effort, partially paralyzed.
A colleague shared with me an article from Slate, featuring a graphic and an interactive map of all the firearms deaths since Newtown. You can access it here. As of a couple of days ago, the toll stood at 1440. Just since Newtown.
Can we craft laws that will eradicate all this violence? No. Will background checks eliminate the ability of criminals to get their hands on weapons? No. In a country with a toxic gun culture and an estimated 300,000,000 guns, we aren’t going to be able to wave a policy wand and make it all go away. But surely, we can make it incrementally more difficult to kill and maim, to destroy lives and terrorize law-abiding citizens.
The survivalists (one of whom, the news just reported, has killed a school bus driver and abducted a young boy) and the paranoid see every modest measure to protect the public as part of a plot to disarm them. Newtown has had one salutary effect: it has pulled back the covers and given the American public a good look at that worldview, as expressed by Wayne LaPierre and his fellow crackpots at the NRA, and most of us–including responsible gun owners–have been understandably appalled. (Until now, like many other Americans, I had considered the NRA simply another lobbying group, rather than a cult. I was wrong.)
It shouldn’t take another Newtown, or the death of another promising 15-year-old, to shake well-intentioned lawmakers out of their complacency. As for those elected officials whose inaction has been purchased with NRA support, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I will no longer vote for a candidate who accepts campaign contributions from that organization.
Just because we can’t wave a magic wand and make everyone safe doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take reasonable measures to reduce the violence and mayhem. And “reasonable measures” do not include arming kindergarten teachers. It’s past time to stop the crazy.