Let’s get real about the whole gun thing. Nothing is going to change. Many Americans have become immune to gun violence. Desensitized is not strong enough. Oblivious is more reflective.
Some Americans love their guns like a god-given right. Others want to restrict their use similar to a limit to catch a certain species of fish.
One outburst of gun violence and the gory details that follow are memorialized for the moment. Then it’s followed by more carnage.
The next shooting happens followed by a short, forgetful period of agony, anger, blame, suffering and spin.
Then the next shooting happens. It’s met by a defiant press conference from the head of the National Rifle Association and a sympathetic presidential visit aboard Air Force One. Media pundits compounded by the vitriol of talk show hosts and the tone turns toxic. The assailant is dismissed as troubled.
This weekend, we had the instant replay. Not the shooting. The reaction. Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle Association, reassured his troops of his unwavering position. Good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns. That’s what was needed in Washington, D.C., when Aaron Alexis killed 12 people.
Catchy but calculated. Also disingenuous. Gun volume is a part of the problem. Gun violence and assault weapons are the problems. Not the right to own them. Sometimes, even “good” guys turn to evil.
And another child is killed. A mother is maimed, a father is lost, a brother or sister is eulogized. An uncle or aunt is buried. A grandparent who’s lived a full life finds it prematurely cut short.
Life returns to normal.
It is no longer shocking news when a 34-year naval contractor walks on to the Washington Navy Shipyard, and unloads his weapons and kills 12 innocent colleagues. That shooter is quickly branded deranged. His victims are labeled dead. Their fate is never deserved. Chalk it up as the fifth mass shooting of an unlucky 2013. Welcome to America’s latest newly minted killing field.
It was news when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris vetted their hate toward their classmates and teachers in 1999, killing 15 people, either because of their ethnicity, gender or religious beliefs. The two weren’t exercising their Second Amendment rights. They simply felt emboldened by them. Good guys were nearby. Some had guns. Harris and Klebold outgunned them.
Trench coats and assault weapons were the accouterments in their crime spree. Guns, not ink pens, provided them unlimited power.
Virginia Tech snatched our attention like a mountain lion snags its prey. We never saw it coming. Seung Hui Cho deprived the world of 33 wonderful souls. It played in the news for a while. But it, too, landed on the shelf of Second Amendment insecurity and intellectual indifference. We were detached again. Never mind Virginia Tech had its own police force to stop a deranged gunman. What mattered here was the wrong weapon got into the wrong hands, a walking time bomb who slipped through the cracks. Cho singularly targeted his prey. He did it with a gun, not a slingshot. Good guys with guns were paralyzed.
We’ve attached names to all of these horrific acts, identifiable and convenient catch phrases such as Columbine, Jonesboro, Aurora, Fort Hood and Tuscon, where a U.S. Congresswoman had her entire life and career derailed on a deadly decision by Jared Loughner. Good guys were in the crowd.
All of these massacres will be chronicled in the history books. The worst, where 20 small children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., should have been the collective call from both sides to take action. Instead, the NRA took cover. It dug its heels in even deeper. It stood up to logic in order to protect a habit. That hasn’t changed.
Each shooting will carry the same story. Lots of bullets and buckets of blood. Vigils and teddy bear displays at each of these locations become as routine as the neighborhood ice cream stand. Sensible dialogue becomes a verbal vice. All ultimately become indelible catalogues in the not too compelling story of magazines, ammunition and high-powered artillery. Meanwhile, some inch us closer and closer toward a police state.
Is anybody willing to get real here?
Little did Americans realize that many of these scenes would become episodic events in the annals of the Second Amendment debate versus the call for gun regulation. Well, they have. And chances are that’s all they will ever become.
The gun lobby is so entrenched, so endowed and so entitled that it will stop at nothing in order to deflate any balloon that rises against the perception of its Second Amendment rights. It invites no conversation. It resists all condemnation. It stands solely on the grounds that the founding fathers intended assault weapons and handguns to be embedded in the U.S. Constitution.
It believes that is real.
There was a time when Hollywood was the convenient scapegoat for all violent acts. It was in the movies. It’s in the videos. The music is full of violent lyrics.
Has anyone lately heard any of these shooters quote Guns ‘N’ Roses? John Rambo at least flew his helicopter into enemy territory.
There is, however, in one Hollywood blockbuster, released 25 years ago this Christmas, that shows the power of the gun and the mayhem it can cause. It is “Tombstone,” the story of the Earp brothers – Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan – that is eloquently told in their feud with the Clantons and the McClowerys.
In one of the earliest examples of gun regulation, Virgil Earp (Sam Elliott) tells a mob of westerners that no one was telling them they couldn’t own or carry a gun. They just couldn’t do so in town. The gun slinging was getting too much. Sounds familiar?
And yet, the most poignant scene was not the spoken or acted out word. It was the symbolism of what was not expressed by the undisputed champion of the Second Amendment.
Charlton Heston, who played the character Henry Hooker in Tombstone, stood up at his ranch, and reassured Wyatt Earp that his friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) would be fine.
Heston remarked, more or less, that if they (the gang of “Cowboys”) wanted to get Holliday, they had to come over Hooker and his men.
Powerful words, to be sure, backed as much by the body of the good good guy as the bullets at his side. As much as Heston championed Second Amendment rights throughout his movie career, in this scenario, even Moses likely knew what was called for.
Heston never fired a bullet in Tombstone. Symbolic? Yes. Real? As real as the Second Amendment.
Advertiser Democrat Editorial Board