I don’t see the problem with “politicizing” an event that has political implications.
Apparently that makes me an outlier. President Trump and most Republicans say they don’t want to talk about gun control after a mass shooting like this past week’s atrocity in Sutherland Springs, Texas, because that would be politicizing the issue. Democratic leaders say essentially the same when it comes to talking about immigration or refugee policy after an immigrant “lottery” winner mows down people in a rented truck or an illegal immigrant commits murder while in a “sanctuary” city.
Yes, of course there is a chance that when people are shocked, devastated, angry and hurt, they will overreact.
But we’re not talking about passing a law the day after events like these. We’re talking about talking — discussing, debating, proposing, counter-proposing.
So, why not? Gun control and immigration are political issues. Everything a president or elected official says about them, at any time, is political. Politicizing them is both unavoidable and necessary.
And during some times of high emotion — many times, in fact — the public relations filter gets dropped and people say what they really think. They are less likely to obscure their real agenda.
An example is House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. After a reportedly lone gunman slaughtered 58 people at a country music concert in Las Vegas, she was asked if a ban on so-called “bump stocks,” which make semi-automatic guns fire at the rate of an automatic weapon, could be the start of a slippery slope to more and more restrictions on gun ownership.
“I certainly hope so,” she said.
Good to know, don’t you think?
And a big part of the problem is that we don’t discuss highly divisive issues in enough depth. Everybody speaks past their opponents with talking points that are as shallow as bumper sticker slogans.
From the left: The blood of victims is on your hands if you don’t support “common sense” gun laws. You’re letting the National Rifle Association control gun policy.
From the right: You’re trying to repeal the Second Amendment. You want to disarm the population and leave it vulnerable to tyranny.
Both are vast over-simplifications of a complicated issue.
I don’t have any personal stake in gun ownership — I’ve never owned one, never really thought of buying one, and most of my friends don’t own one. Then again, I’ve got family in South Dakota who own a number of them, hunting season is their favorite time of year, and they would not take kindly to an effective means of self-defense being confiscated — especially when it is a constitutional right.
So instead of accusing one another of either being complicit in mass-murder or trying to upend the Constitution, here are a few issues/questions that ought to be explored without demonizing law-abiding fellow citizens who have a different view.
We are forever hearing, with regard to climate change, that we should base our views on “what the science says.”
So, with regard to mass shootings, what does the evidence say?
n One of the major implications of those pushing “common-sense” (more restrictive) gun control laws is that they would prevent atrocities like Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs.
But, as we’ve all now heard, a law is already in place that would have prevented Devin Patrick Kelley, the Sutherland Springs shooter, from buying a single gun if it had been enforced. Why would passing another law make a difference, other than to restrict those who are no threat to public safety? Wouldn’t it make more sense to enforce existing laws first?
n There are declarations that if high-capacity magazines were eliminated, it would limit the carnage a shooter could do. Indeed, six bullets will do a lot less damage than 30 or more.
But there is a world market for guns and ammunition that doesn’t have to abide by U.S. laws. So, how will banning high-capacity magazines here prevent criminals from smuggling them in? Are we really going to prevent illegal weapons from crossing our borders when we can’t stop drugs or illegal immigrants?
n The NRA is a very convenient bogeyman at times like this. But to say it “controls” gun policy is like saying NARAL Pro-Choice America controls abortion policy. Organizations have no power, indeed they would not exist, without members and supporters. They don’t control the views of millions of people, they represent those views.
And support for gun ownership has increased over recent decades. Gallup polls have found that public support for a ban on civilian ownership of handguns declined from 60 percent in 1959 to 23 percent today.
And multiple polls find that, while there is support for a ban on assault weapons, majorities also think such a ban wouldn’t do much to curb gun violence.
n The last time the Senate voted on an assault weapons ban was in 2013, after the Sandy Hook mass shooting, when Democrats controlled the chamber. It got only 40 votes. What was that about only Republicans allegedly having blood on their hands?
n If politics is the art of compromise, what about a deal where gun control advocates — who tend to be ferocious supporters of unrestricted abortion — agree to some “common-sense” restrictions on abortion (which opponents believe is the mass-murder of millions of unborn children) in exchange for something like an assault weapons ban and tougher background checks?
And what about each side signing an agreement that they won’t push for further restrictions — that these allegedly common-sense restrictions will be all they seek?
Of course, doing so would eliminate one of the favorite fundraising tools of both sides. Which would expose something else: Are they really trying to solve a problem, or just to raise enough money to gain, or hold on to, power?
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.