Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Stuff Happens"



In the wake of Thursday's mass shooting in Oregon, President Obama expressed (above) his frustration at how mass shootings have become "routine" in America. He decried the political kabuki theater (my words, not his) that surrounds them and the resultant political inaction.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush had his own response: "Stuff happens."

The President responded:



Now, it would be easy here to portray Bush's response as uniquely callous or uncaring, but I don't actually think that's fair. I think he's reflecting the political consensus of his own party, and, alas, of a good chunk of mine. And, to the extent that we keep voting them in after Sandy Hook, he is reflecting the consensus of the American people: Ultimately, we don't care. Not, at any rate, enough to do anything.

It's a hard one to take, isn't it?

But with some exceptions--my own home state of New York for one--by and large, it's been business as usual, and, nationally, mass shootings every few weeks.

For those who say that no action can be effective,the Australian experience begs to differ.

For those who say the Second Amendment prevents action, let me point out that in District of Columbia v Heller, the very decision finding that the Amendment created an individual right to own weapons, the Court left a panoply of options on the legislative table:
Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.” [citations omitted]
It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment ’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.
So, no, the Congress and the state legislatures are not helpless here.

As I said above, the situation has gotten worse, not better since Sandy Hook. Because in the wake of that massacre, Open Carry activists have taken to trying to force their way into every kind of public space, with the express purpose "[t]o educate and desensitize the public and members of the law enforcement community about the legality of the open carry of a handgun in public" and "[t]o demonstrate to the public at large that gun owners are one of the most lawful segments of society and they have nothing to fear from the lawful carry of a firearm." The NRA, of all entities, briefly pushed back against open carry extremists, only to back down--can't be outflanked, after all.

Are the open carry activists right? As I pointed out in 2012 (citing Ezra Klein and Mother Jones),in mass shootings from 1982-2012, "[o]f the 139 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally." In fact, as the NYT reports, "Oregon is one of seven states with provisions, either from state legislation or court rulings, that allow the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The other states are Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Utah and Wisconsin."

As Kurt Vonnegut might say, "So it goes."

For those who decry legislation on principle, file--legislation isn't the only vehicle; social mores, among the gun-owning community could help; to again quote myself:
Gun owners, you want to sever that link between your hobby and death. Step up. Draw lines of what is and isn't acceptable behavior. Don't be afraid of bucking the NRA, and keep guns out of places where they don't belong--schools, churches, etc. Shame people who think it's ok to bring guns where they don't belong, and those among you who feel that the omnipresence of guns is the only way to be sure your rights won't be taken away.

As to those who say guns don't kill people, people kill people? Cut it out. Do you have any idea how inane that is? Guns make the difference between working hard to kill one person, or two, and being able to, without discernible skill, talent, or physical or mental stamina, indiscriminately slaughter. It's the difference between retail and wholesale murder, and if you don't know the difference--why, I just don't want to know you.
Hasn't happened.

So blaming Jeb Bush might feel good. But he's not the problem. We are, my fellow citizens. As Walt Kelly we have met the enemy, and he is us.

2 comments:

Ellen said...

Pogo: we have seen the enemy and he is us. I've been told that were we to limit the sales of bullets or control them, we could within two years stop huge numbers of people from killing one another. It's not true that guns being in the hands of so many make this stoppage impossible: you need only control bullets. I was also told there was a bill to control bullet sales and the NRA got after it immediately.

Anglocat said...

Alas, yes.