Twenty-Eight More. How Many Must Die Before We Have a Meaningful Debate?

The response is predictable.  “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  No debate about how much fire power is enough or mass shootings is possible because “guns don’t kill people . . . .”  Instead, we just bury the dead, mourn, and move on.

Even though guns do not kill people, they certainly are designed to kill.  The “guns do not kill people” logic -- if it truly is logical -- can be applied to any number of instruments of death:  Bombs of all sorts, land mines, hand grenades, biological and chemical weapons, and the like.  Just how inane does “nuclear bombs don’t kill people, people kill people” sound?  Nobody would let something so absurd prevent any discussion of nuclear disarmament or nonproliferation.

Nonetheless, absurdity prevails -- possibly because we Americans simply love our guns.  Ironically, John Lennon penned, "Happiness is a warm gun."  Depending on whose statistic you read, Americans have somewhere between 100 and 300 million guns.  In a nation of 311 million, that is either a gun for nearly every man, woman, and child or one for every third man, woman, and child.  That is one to three guns per household. 

The Supreme Court has decreed that the Constitution allows every American to have a gun for protection against intruders and criminals in addition to for target shooting or hunting.  Of course, when our Constitution was written 1789, the citizenry was armed with muskets -- one shot and reload.  Those guns often were used to put food on the table.  I suspect that the Founding Fathers did not conceive of a society in which anybody who was wealthy enough would have a cannon, the heavy weaponry of the day.  If you give any thought whatsoever to those times, you know that the Founding Fathers did not view the Second Amendment as arming slaves or Indians.

The debate over whether anything should -- or can -- be done to slow the proliferation of gun deaths in America gets shut down almost before it starts.  Folks rotely say “guns don’t kill people” and then go out to buy more guns.  Others say, “We need to arm more people to put a stop to gun deaths.”  To close any potential debate down completely, others say, “Tragedies and mass shootings are God’s way of punishing us because we support women’s rights or gay rights or same sex marriage or teach evolution.”

Possibly, even if debate was allowed, we could not reach any conclusions or would be appalled by the conclusion.  Without guns, America would not be the third largest nation on Earth.  Without guns, the West might not have been won.  Guns and violence are engrained and aggrandized in our history.  Maybe the Gun Lobby merely is making a statement on our society.  “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  And a meaningful debate would find that we, as Americans, simply are violent people who cannot resolve disputes without resorting to killing each other.  Guns are convenient and handy for that purpose.

Unfortunately, another 27 innocent people including 20 children were killed in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, by one shooter with a lot of bullets and who did not have to reload after every shot.  And any debate already is being shut down.

“Guns don’t kill people.”  That sounds pretty shallow when we mourn and bury our children.  But, given our nation’s attention deficit, we soon will forget until that next mass shooting.  We then again will hear, “Guns don’t kill people.”

What will the body count be before we at least engage in a meaningful debate?

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