Now is the time to politicize gun violence. In the wake of the recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, how can we not?
It’s tiresome to hear Republican lawmakers say it’s inappropriate to politicize this tragedy. Their responses are numbingly repetitive and rote.
These lawmakers loathe the suggestion that assault weapons like AR-15’s be banned outright or that gun control legislation be enacted. They hate hearing how concealed carry reciprocity laws are a bad idea, not to mention an encroachment on state’s rights. They believe guns should be readily available to anyone.
Yet, there is no legitimate need for civilians to own semi-automatic assault weapons that, with minor modifications, can be transformed into fully-automatic killing machines. The kind used in Parkland, Aurora, Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and God knows how many other mass shootings to come. And don’t kid yourself - many more of these atrocities are on the horizon. They’ve become part of the American landscape.
It was infuriating to listen to pundit Laura Ingraham on Fox News, telling her audience hours after the Parkland shooting that AR-15s are actually “popular and overwhelmingly safe.”
Tell that to Broward County Sheriff Bob Israel, whose officers responded to the panic and carnage that claimed 17 lives. Israel made it clear that weapons like the AR-15 have no place in the hands of the American public.
Ingraham criticized Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) when he took to the floor of the Senate and “politicized” the shootings by saying “enough is enough.” That the epidemic of mass slaughter must stop. He stated emphatically that our lawmakers are the ones ultimately responsible for these atrocities through their inaction.
Ingraham’s response: “Didn’t take him long to go right to gun control.”
Perhaps because the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook were Blumenthal’s constituents. Gun violence hit him close to home.
“Is this a problem with the gun or the shooter?” Ingraham asked a guest.
The answer is both.
There is a mental health crisis in this country, yet our government continually fails to provide adequate funds to combat it. The NRA and Republican legislators assert that it’s the shooter alone, not the weapon, that is the problem. The two often go hand in hand because these weapons are available for sale to nearly anybody, including many individuals psychologically unfit to own them. This is not about the Second Amendment. It’s about common sense.
The level of devastation wrought in Parkland could not have happened had the shooter not been armed with an AR-15 or similar weapon. Despite a history of violent behavior and concerns about his psychological state, he was able to go into a gun store and legally purchase an assault weapon. If assault weapons weren’t readily available, he wouldn’t have been able to buy one. But they are and he was.
So, let’s start politicizing gun violence. Let’s politicize it every single day. Just like the NRA politicizes gun ownership, lobbies lawmakers, and stands intransigently opposed to gun laws designed to protect American lives.
Is it healthy to drop our kids off at school, kiss them goodbye, then spend anxious hours wondering whether they will be alive and well by day’s end?
Do we want to avoid public places like stadiums, arenas, and concerts, unsure of whether the pop-pop-pop interspersed with the music or the roar of the crowd is part of the show, or someone unloading an AR-15?
Do we want to go to work or a work-related event, as in San Bernardino, and be greeted by radicalized individuals who had easy access to assault weapons?
No matter what Republican leaders say or want to believe, politicization of gun violence in the wake of mass shootings is unavoidable.
For every parent, family member, friend, or co-worker, each new tragic episode will produce hundreds - perhaps thousands - more politicized Americans. They are increasingly frustrated by unresponsive legislators; sickened by the insanity. And they vote.
Blair Bess is a Los Angeles-based television writer, producer, and columnist. He edits the online blog Soaggragated.com, and can be reached at BBess.firstname.lastname@example.org.