Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Oct. 26, 2021

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Jayne: Say, is now a good time to talk about gun control?

By , Columbian Opinion Editor

How ’bout now? Is now a good time?

We have asked that before. After Sandy Hook. After Las Vegas. After Parkland. And still this country remains paralyzed when it comes to gun control, insisting that now is not the time to talk about it.

So how ’bout now? Does the murder of high school students in Santa Fe, Texas, warrant a discussion about how to prevent mass shootings?

As of this writing, we don’t know the details of Friday’s shooting, other than officials say at least 10 people were killed. That might change by the time you read this, and we will learn more about the shooter or shooters, the weapons, the motivations. Or maybe we won’t, and that would be fine. Because the details often distract from the fundamental discussion and the salient point: This country has an epidemic of gun violence and too many people in power are unwilling to do anything about it.

On Friday, in the moments after the Santa Fe shooting, President Trump said his administration is “determined to do everything in our power to protect our students, secure our schools, and to keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a threat to themselves, and to others.”

It was a thoughtful statement, but it ignored the fact that in 2017 Trump signed a bill revoking an Obama-era rule — which had not yet gone into effect — that would have made it more difficult for mentally ill people to purchase guns. And it ignored the fact that Republicans’ response to the Parkland shooting in February was to recommend that teachers should be armed.

All of which obfuscates the fact that more guns lead to more gun deaths. All of which obfuscates the fact that the United States is the only nation where mass shootings are essentially a daily occurrence. Pushing for the arming of teachers is simply a Ponzi scheme that benefits gun manufacturers and makes the rest of less safe. But if the murder of 20 school children and six adults in 2012 at Sandy Hook didn’t change things, well, we are simply blind to our own shortcomings.

All is not well

The trope is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people — the absurdity of which is easily exposed. Let’s put it this way: Why should the United States care if North Korea has nuclear weapons? Nukes don’t kill people; people kill people. Sounds silly, right? Yet some Americans think this is an adequate argument for ignoring more than 30,000 firearm deaths every year in this country.

Roughly half of those deaths are suicides, and yet the U.S. rate of gun homicides is six times that of Canada, seven times as high as in Sweden, and 16 times as high as in Germany. That is not the sign of a civilized nation, and the number of people willing to accept it is appalling. It is, essentially, the political equivalent of the Kevin Bacon character in “Animal House” running around yelling, “Remain calm — all is well” as chaos unfolds around him.

But all is not well, and it will not be well until the public stands up to elected officials who distract and obfuscate and ignore the issues. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, is one of those. She has accepted campaign donations from the National Rifle Association and in the past has had an “A” rating from the organization. When asked after the Parkland shooting whether the congresswoman would support a ban on assault weapons, a spokeswoman said, “She has no interest in banning firearms that shoot one round at a time of legal ammunition.”

Maybe that aligns with your beliefs; Herrera Beutler was re-elected in 2016 with 62 percent of the vote. But it seems like she is ignoring a problem that is unique to the United States.

Yes, we can talk about mental health and violent video games and a lack of cultural morality and blame those for mass shootings. But until we seriously talk about gun control and vote for people who are willing to talk about it, nothing is going to change.

So how ’bout now? Now seems like a good time.