Tuesday, December 17, 2013

America's Gun Problem Hits (My) Home

The story faded after a day, but on Friday we narrowly avoided yet another mass shooting tragedy in Colorado.  A student at Arapahoe High School in Centennial came to school armed and ready to kill, but only ended up killing himself after wounding a couple of students with random fire.  Sadly, one of the wounded students is severely hurt and in a coma.  It was fortunate, nonetheless, that he had a shotgun rather than an assault weapon.  Had that been the case, the carnage would certainly have been worse.  That might very well be due to new laws limiting gun sales in Colorado, since the gunman could not get ahold of the deadliest weapons.

This incident, which like so many others has quickly been forgotten, hit home hard for me.  One of cousins is a teacher at Arapahoe, and when I heard the news about an active shooter in the school, I feared the absolute worst.  I spent my commute home from work just trying to keep it together and felt incredible waves of relief released when I finally learned from my cousin that she was alive doing okay.

This potential slaughter came one day before the anniversary of Newtown, a truly horrifying event, and one that has exposed the complete moral bankruptcy of our society.  If a pile of dead first graders is not sufficient to change our gun laws and our sick national addiction to firearms, then nothing ever will be.  We have become so inured to school shootings that unless there is one with a high body count, we really don't even bother to pay attention.  The incident at Arapahoe is one of many of these horrible events that easily fade into the background.  Because it could have claimed the life of a loved one, I simply can't let it go.

Gun control is hardly a panacea, of course, but some sensible laws are in order, and this is hardly a matter of much dispute.  Americans overwhelmingly support universal background checks to eliminate obvious loopholes in the system, but the NRA and others have successfully fought them tooth and nail. There is no real reason for allowing high capacity magazines, either, but the 2nd Amendment crowd defends even these deadly devices.

Even where new laws exist, roadblocks remain.  In states like New York and Colorado, which have passed gun control measures, county sheriffs are now refusing to enforce the law.  Reading the comments section on this Times article on the phenomenon is a quick primer in just how active and committed gun rights advocate are.  To them, limiting 30 round clips of ammo is tantamount to tyranny.  I can only hope that in the horrible event that another shooting would happen in the Denver area, that if the shooter got his gear illegally in rural Colorado, the local sheriff would be proseccuted as an accessory to murder.

I somehow don't believe that will ever happen, though.  It all seems to boil down to an underlying cultural-political chasm that is growing ever wider in this country.  Every time I go home to my rural Nebraska hometown, the vehemence about guns and other culturally-grounded political issues seems that much more extreme.  People in these places think they are the "real America" and as such have a right to veto or not follow restrictions on guns that originate in other places, even if, in today's world, it is urban America that is more "real," since it represents a much larger number of people.

 There are only two options: that rural America is allowed to be a country in a country, withering further into irrelevance yet still having its way on gun control, or that the issue is forced and majority rule is actually allowed to hold sway.  The latter course of action is the only way our gun problem will be resolved, but it seems to be so fractious and fraught with conflict that we have decided not to bother, even when a tragedy like Sandy Hook occurs.  The dead children appear to be an acceptable price for political peace for most in this country, and I don't know if anything can change that.  

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