Opinion | Mass Shootings and Our Depraved Political Stagnation

Another mass shooting. Another round of recriminations. Another push for more gun control. Another pushback from Republicans in Congress doing the bidding of the gun lobby. Another reminder of the unlikelihood of any real federal legislative change.

As incessant as mass shootings have become in this country, so has the ritual in their wake to respond to them, a ritual that ultimately, inevitably unravels.

I hate to sound defeatist, but I feel defeated.

Yes, there are common-sense gun safety advocates who are making some headway, particularly on the state and local levels. But comprehensive federal gun legislation remains elusive, if not impossible.

Our anomalous gun culture and the shocking number of gun deaths and the prevalence of guns — including military-style weapons — in our society simply don’t seem to convince enough politicians to take action.

Nor are the tens of thousands of Americans we lose to guns each year enough to inspire action. We have, on some level, simply absorbed that abominable number of deaths as normal, or perhaps collateral damage, in a society with a gun culture like ours.

We know that we could do more to prevent these mass shootings and to reduce the number of people killed during them. But many politicians won’t budge and the people who elect them won’t hold them accountable for their intransigence.

These voters say to us, I hear you — or I choose not to hear you — and I agree with some of what you are saying. But for me, this issue does not supersede others like preventing abortions, lowering taxes, so-called religious freedoms and the right to discriminate against people who are L.G.B.T.

Data be damned.

I no longer know how to change this attitude or if it can be changed by the recitation of facts. There is no new surprising bit of information that, once published, could change the parameters of this debate. The people resisting change know these facts as well as those pushing for change do. So, nothing changes.

We are, sadly, growing numb to the numbers. The parade of pain and grief of those left behind has become custom.

This is not a condemnation of those who strive to make change and a better society. This is a condemnation of that part of America that stands in the way.

America is awash in blood and bullets and its leaders, Republicans for the most part, are bereft of the political courage and moral clarity to help.

They have adopted the gun lobby’s “slippery slope” positioning: That any new restrictions on gun ownership and usage open the door to more, inevitably leading to gun banning, gun registries and gun confiscations.

This extreme, existential position forces many progressives to repeat the idea that “no one is talking about taking anyone’s guns away.”

But, in truth, I must say that I want a society in which there are fewer guns sold and fewer guns in circulation. I want a society in which the ownership by individual citizens of weapons of war would be illegal. I want a society where gun ownership is highly regulated and where guns are required to be registered and insured. I want a society in which so-called “smart guns” are heavily promoted among those who buy guns, so that those guns can’t be used by people who aren’t the owners.

I want more gun regulation, severe gun regulation, the kind that most elected Democrats dare not speak of, the kind that scares the gun cult. I am honest about my desires and motivations, even if they confirm the gun lobby’s fears.

I know that it is not likely that I will ever see the kinds of gun restrictions that I want, but there are more modest gun restrictions upon which most of America agrees and we can’t even seem to achieve those.

How can this be? How can bullets rip through this many bodies and the federal legislative response amount to “thought and prayers?” How can the response still be that “guns don’t kill people, criminals kill people?” How can the conservative solution continue to be “more good guys with guns?”

It is true that the vast majority of guns in this country belong to law-abiding citizens and will never be involved in a crime. But when a society has as many guns as ours does and guns are so easy to get, it only takes a tiny percentage to produce carnage.

It seems to me that to institute restrictions that might also limit access to people who aren’t criminals might be a reasonable sacrifice if those restrictions might mean that fewer people are killed.

The mass shootings in our society are not normal, nor are they inevitable. They are the outgrowth of inaction, cowardice and greed. They are the result of the callous policy of the gun lobby and the politicians kissing up to them. They are the result of a depraved political stagnation.

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