If you ever had any doubt about the insensitivity of the U. S. Congress to the tragedy around it, it has been dispelled by the push to expand gun rights in the aftermath of two of the worst mass murders in the nation’s history. One of these slaughters of the innocent of course was the Las Vegas massacre, and the other was at a church in Texas.
Despite the killing of 58 and the wounding of 200 or so at the Las Vegas concert with video game efficiency by an obvious madman and the bullet-riddled Sunday service in Sutherland Springs that took the lives of 26 more by another maniac, a bill to allow more Americans to carry concealed weapons is making its way toward the top of the list of ignominious actions.
The proposed legislation would allow gun owners from states that allow concealed weapons to transport their guns to other states with similar laws even though the permission in the originating state may be much easier to come by.
An example is New York, which has strict standards for qualifying for concealed carry, being forced to accept the permits of other states with far less strict requirements. In fact, New York now doesn’t recognize concealed carry permits from any other states.
This bit of sham is the National Rifle Association’s attempt to nationalize concealed carry. Ultimately that would be the result and this nation truly would be faced with the prospect of never knowing whether the person next to you is armed. The argument always propounded by the gun lobby is that concealed weapons enhance public safety.
Actually, data shows just the opposite is true. Self-defense incidents are rare. Deaths caused by concealed weapons carriers are not. The New York Times, citing numbers provided by the Violence Policy Center, a gun safety group, says that since 2007 those carrying concealed weapons have been responsible for 1,119 deaths not involving self-defense. Among these have been 31 mass shootings, including 21 law enforcement officers.
A group of retired military generals have joined an opposition group organized by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Giffords was a victim of an attempted assassination during a campaign rally that wounded her terribly and brought about a loud but once again short-lived outcry for gun reform.
The top officers warned about the accelerating firearms violence, predicted it would increase and pleaded with a recalcitrant Congress to stop the carnage. But one shouldn’t hold out too much hope that their pleas will succeed. Such campaigns by other distinguished Americans certainly haven’t.
Against a background where Congress thumbs its nose at data that shows a majority of Americans — as many as 90 percent — believe in stricter gun laws for such non-controversial measures as expanding background checks for gun buyers, it is difficult to imagine what it would take to bring about a national revulsion that demanded “Enough!”
As the only commercial product enshrined in the Constitution, the answer would be a decisive ruling by the Supreme Court overturning a rather recent one that makes the right to own a gun an individual one rather than collective or… a constitutional convention to modify the Second Amendment.
The latter is certainly perilous because any attempt to open the Constitution could mean an all-out assault on it. The other way would entail a repeal of the amendment itself, which also would be unlikely although the evidence that it has become a threat to a safe society seems overwhelming.
In the meantime, we can anticipate another massacre or two that will bring another “oh my, such horror” followed by a “ho hum” from the people who not only make our laws but those who make our guns and also those who make a living defending their unrestricted access.
In this seemingly never-ending game of numbers — now reaching more than 300 million “loose cannons” on our streets and increasing mass murders — where do we find relief?
Clearly not the fools who occupy Capitol Hill…and the White House.
Dan Thomasson is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service and a former vice president of Scripps Howard Newspapers. Readers may send him email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.