Last weekend’s marches against gun violence elevated the conversation past the deflection and vitriol of the NRA.
Ex-politician Rick Santorum revealed the emptiness of that “side” of the debate when he quipped that the protestors should learn CPR, implicitly saying that guns, and gun violence, were unchangeable facts of American life.
So was British colonial rule in India, or the Berlin Wall for East Germans.
The NRA has paralyzed every conversation about guns by deflecting to a debate about the Constitution’s second amendment, which forces positions into “for” or “against” buckets…and allows them to label any suggestion for regulation as ignorant, America-hating Marxism.
It was brilliant PR, as defending our country is an easy idea to grasp and support.
But the protests revealed the ugly secret behind that strategy: The NRA doesn’t represent anybody, so debating with them is irrelevant. The conversation about guns isn’t between the NRA and everyone else, or even between gun owners and non-gun owners.
There’s just us, and we’re taking action.
So Citibank won’t let its business customers sell guns to people under 21 years old, or sell bump stocks or high-capacity magazines. Walmart and Kroger’swon’t sell to people under 21, and Dick’s Sporting Goods won’t sell high-capacity guns and rifles. 11 states have passed, or are considering regulations on gun purchases. Gun-maker Remington has filed for bankruptcy, and still faces a $500 million lawsuit stemming from the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.
The bigger picture is that our culture’s glorification of guns and violence may have peaked.
It has never been credible to blame mass murders on mental illness, as the influences on the mostly white, young, male killers are many and nuanced. The very idea of guns themselves, as tools of empowerment, is itself a contributing factor; to deny it is to suggest that it was just coincidence that the Columbine shooters dressed like characters in The Matrix movie.
The facts are that guns cause more violence than stop it, and that even people in gun-loving towns don’t necessarily buy the guns-as-defense argument. Women are particularly vulnerable to gun violence, as they’re 5 times more likely to die in domestic arguments in households with firearms. Over half of all gun deaths are attributed to suicide.
Those are a lot of martyrs for an absolutist defense of the second amendment.
So what happens if guns become unacceptable in the way that smoking cigarettes has become uncool? Last week’s protests — and the fact that over 80% of Americans want some limitations on gun purchases — may be evidence that such a cultural shift has begun.
Ultimately, owning guns isn’t any more central to being American than owning slaves (both were codified in the Constitution), and American jurisprudence is defined by the many gives and takes involved in applying a 231 year-old document to the present tense. The mere fact that we have 27 amendments is further proof of that necessity.
For all of the different opinions we fellow citizens have over any aspect of our shared community, we can demonstrate our opinions with our wallets, and debate them when it comes time for elections. What might seem like a heated debate now may become a foregone conclusion once all those young protestors grow up.
India became free. The Berlin Wall fell. Times change. The NRA’s absolutist obstruction just became irrelevant.