One of the most depressing aspects of the shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., is just how familiar it all is to the American experience. We’ve seen it so many times, the body counts, the candlelight vigils, the search for motive, the gun control debate. The numbers may be different this time - 12 dead, four guns, 6,000 rounds of ammunition purchased online — but in an effort to put this heartbreak into a national context, here are some other numbers to consider. In America, over one dozen guns are legally sold every minute of every day. There are almost 300 million privately-owned firearms in this country — that’s almost enough to arm every man, woman and child — but while there is a gun in four out of every 10 of American homes, only a small percentage of owners have most of the weapons, with the average collection swelling in recent years to around seven guns per owner.
It’s as familiar as it is unnecessary. As Shimon Peres once put it, “Too much blood and tears.” Too much pain. Too much suffering. Too many lives lost for reasons no one could begin or even hope to make sense of. It’s happened time and time again. The venue and the faces change, but the needless suffering remains the same.
What makes this even worse is that the people who could help effect change and perhaps put a stop to this sort of thing will have none of it. Few on the Right side of the political spectrum will entertain even for a fleeting moment the idea of gun control, and few on the Left have the courage to do the right thing. Because of the “800-lb. gorilla” status of the National Rifle Association and it’s snarling attack dog of a President, Wayne LaPierre, Congress will never pass any sort of gun control. Body counts don’t matter to LaPierre; what does matter is that the NRA has Congress by the balls. Any talk of gun control, and LaPierre squeezes. It doesn’t take much pressure to force Congress to fall back into line. In so doing, Congress has sent a very clear and unmistakable message: nothing can be done and nothing WILL be done to tighten gun laws. Another Aurora is just the price of allowing LaPierre to control the gun debate.
Of course, it’s not just cowardly politicians on the Right, though they are more heavily favored by the gun lobby. Democrats- even some Liberal Democrats- cower before LaPierre. They seem incapable of forcing Congress to confront and debate meaningful gun control- the kind that might prevent another Aurora. Perhaps this is why “political courage” is a phrase you rarely hear these days, especially when it comes to protecting Americans from Americans and their guns. As President Obama eloquently put it, assault weapons should be in the hands of soldiers, not criminals…and yes, guns DO kill people.
I suppose this is what happens when you cede administration of the asylum to the inmates.