As the death toll in Las Vegas rises in the wake of a massacre that’s killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more, it’s impossible not to consider the reasons why these bloody events keep happening in America. There are countless factors at play here, obviously. Some of them are almost entirely out of our control, including mental illnesses that trigger people to kill, seemingly at random. For now, without the political will, we simply can’t stop every mad man from acquiring deadly weapons and using this hardware on innocent victims in public places. As long as there are people kicking around this planet, there will be people who will engage in mass murder. And there will be leaders who succeed by allowing it to continue.
The obvious solution for at least reducing the numbers of gun deaths in American from its current level of 33,000 per year, the equivalent of a new 9/11 every month, is to (duh!) regulate the sale and purchase of these retail products — products sold for profit and which are explicitly manufactured to harm or kill living beings. Period. Guns have no other purpose than that, and therefore it makes sense to regulate which kinds of weapons can be purchased, as well as which citizens have the right to own them.
I know. You’re saying to yourself, Thanks, Captain Obvious. However, it’s a goal that’s far more difficult to actually achieve than it is to repeat out loud. Charlie Pierce wrote today that if Sandy Hook didn’t shake us out of our torpor on gun control, then Las Vegas won’t either. The only real solution for the self-evident problem of regulating guns is to pull the money out of politics, rendering impotent the gun lobby’s power to blackmail or buy-off Congress. Either that or we wait for politicians with actual backbones to emerge from their hatcheries. On both measures, though, we’re talking about mandatory actions but a considerably long timeline before we see any positive results along those lines. Getting money out of politics will either require a left-leaning Supreme Court or a constitutional amendment, neither of which appear in the offing anytime soon.
But there’s one thing we can handle in the near term: summarily ending the careers of national political leaders who callously use firearms as props in political ads.
What does it tell the people when someone like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul brandish firearms to (symbolically) solve political issues? Clearly, the takeaway is that it’s okay to use machines of death when confronted with complicated problems.
How do we reduce gun violence when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) thinks it’s okay to literally shoot the U.S. tax code?
What the hell kind of example is this? Hey — the U.S. tax code is complicated, so fuck it, it has to die. And we wonder why more and more Americans can’t seem to carry on a bloodless political debate. Oh, and by the way, the senator’s weapon in the video is an AR-15: Adam Lanza’s weapon of choice at Sandy Hook.
Again, how do we reduce gun violence when Gov. Eric Greitens (R-MO) is filmed shooting a fully automatic belt-fed rifle at “Obama’s Democrat machine?”
WARNING: The comments under the video on YouTube will melt your brain. In a second ad, Greitens uses an AR-15 to “take dead aim at politics as usual.”
How do we reduce gun violence when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) produces a campaign commercial in which he “takes aim” and shoots at a “Cap and Trade” bill?
And yes, it’s members of both parties who are responsible for this horrendousness. Here’s former Democratic House candidate from Montana, Rob Quist, shooting a television featuring an ad by his Republican opponent, Greg Gianforte, who won the special election there.
How do we reduce gun violence when Republican congressional candidate Mo Brooks used a firearm to shoot the Affordable Care Act?
And, what the hell — here’s Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) using a firearm to cook bacon. Because guns aren’t just for killing kindergarteners, you know…
Jesus. These are American leaders, representing American political parties with advertisements airing on American television networks and on American computer browsers. Some of these bastards never rose to elected office, but the winners keep being re-elected because they’re enthusiastically willing exploit the darkest instincts of their voters, in part by suggesting that it’s patriotic to shoot the political ideas being proposed by the other side. Even after the near-fatal shootings of two members of Congress, this is what we’re being conditioned to accept: that there’s no problem that can’t be solved by pulling out a semi- or fully-automatic weapon and ejaculating bullets into whatever’s bugging us. This is their endgame. Their last resort.
If we really want to roll back the rising tide of gun violence here, let’s start by hectoring off the stage any of these monsters who market in war-like retaliation in the face of political opposition — monsters who telegraph to their people that even if the facts and reality are against them, there’s always bullets.
And not for nothing but the 2018 midterm ad blitz is just around the corner…