Is It Time to Rescue the Second Amendment from the Gun Lobby?

Photo by Laura Allen.

Consider these news items from a single day in June.

In Virginia a lone gunman shot up a baseball field where congressional Republicans were practicing for their yearly game against the Democrats. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others were wounded. Survivors spoke about diving for cover after hearing “a very loud pop.”

In Minneapolis, police responding to an alert from the city’s ShotSpotter audio detection devices discovered a 22-year-old man lying in the street with a gunshot wound to the head and rushed him to the hospital. He was still fighting for his life when the story ran.

At the Nation’s Capital, Republican legislators were about to begin a hearing on a bill to eviscerate the nation’s long-standing restrictions on gun silencers when news of the Virginia shooting reached them. The hearing was postponed.

There are some dots here worth connecting.

Think for a moment how these stories might have ended even more tragically if the shooters had fitted their weapons with assassin-style noise suppressors. The signature BANG of a gun is the most immediate and clear danger signal people have in a mass shooting. Beyond that, high-tech noise detection systems like the one in Minneapolis are a valuable new tool helping police respond quickly to gunfire.

And yet, legislation to repeal regulations on silencers and make gunfire stealthy is at the top of the agenda for the National Rifle Association.

It’s one of the clearest signs yet that it’s the gun lobby that’s on a rampage here. Everyone is in a kerfuffle over Russian meddling in our Democratic process. But consider the harm being done by the collusion between the gun manufacturers, the NRA, and the Republican Party. They’ve created the meanest, slimiest bog monster in the whole of the Washington swamp. Ever since the 2016 election they’ve been running through the halls of Congress screaming maniacally, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

The people most frightened by this should be those who actually care about the Second Amendment. The cynical politicians of the extreme right are quite literally loving it to death.

With more than 30,000 lives snuffed out by gun violence each year and little hope for progress towards an answer, at some point there is bound to be a backlash. When it arrives it will swing too far in the opposite direction. These things always do.

The only people with the power to do anything about this right now are the more principled members of the Republican Party. The NRA has been taken over by fanatics. The gun manufacturers are making too much blood money to give any thought to the future.

I’m not so naive as to believe the Republicans will start proposing gun control legislation. I think it would be enough right now to just change the tone of the words being fired back and forth. Demilitarize the conversation.

In other words, stop saying that the answer to gun violence is to shoot more people. The NRA’s favorite talking point is, “The only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” If we follow that to its logical conclusion we end up in some sort of Mad Max dystopia where everyone is armed to the teeth and looking for a chance to get the drop on the other guy. There may be some bunker dwellers in Idaho who want to live like that. I don’t think the rest of us do.

So let’s start with this: a gun isn’t merely an appliance for safety. When we talk about it that way we forget there are human lives at the other end of the barrel, and they also have a full bill of rights enshrined in the Constitution. And that Constitution itself is a lengthy document crafted in terms of checks and balances. Not a sole sacrosanct amendment. The sooner we can get back to talking that way the more we will actually be doing to protect the Second Amendment. And the less lunatics like the man who shot up the Republican ball team will hear our nation’s leaders talking about a gun as the answer to everything a person might be frightened of.

With the many voices calling for a calming of inflammatory rhetoric in the wake of the frightening events on an otherwise ordinary Wednesday at a Virginia ball field, this might be the opportune moment.