It would be understandable if some wished that we could return to stricter sequestration. Not only because we’d be safer from the risk of COVID, but because, especially at this time last year, several societal problems seemed blessedly diminished — including gun violence.
On Sunday, in Brooklyn Center, Minn., a police officer shot and killed a man after he’d been stopped for an expired registration. The officer says she meant to use her Taser, not her gun, which she said she pulled by accident.
On Monday in Knoxville, Tenn., a scant 274 miles away, a high school student was killed and a police officer was injured after the student fired at officers who approached him.
In Greensboro on Monday, a Winston-Salem man was fatally shot. Not to mention the record year in homicides in Greensboro in 2020, most of them shootings, that have continued at a troubling rate into 2021.
These follow a mass shooting in Boulder, Colo., on March 22, that killed 10 people and a shooting in Atlanta on March 16 in which eight were killed.
They are unrelated incidents — every shooting is unique — except for one key ingredient: a firearm
According to Education Week’s school shooting tracker, there were 25 school shootings in 2019; 10 in 2020 — likely reduced because of sequestration — and four so far in 2021.
How we wish that number would remain low — but it seems so likely, so predictable, that it will not. This is the country that refuses to fight gun violence.
Earlier this month, President Biden announced a series of modest executive actions that he hoped would set the stage for a significant change in U.S. gun policy. He said: “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. And it's an international embarrassment. My job, the job of any president is to protect the American people.”
He noted that Congress had not passed “a single new federal law to reduce gun violence.”
He’s right. Congress has failed, over and over again, to act.
He’s also right that it’s an international embarrassment that the country that calls itself “the greatest” has failed to protect its own citizens from so much gun violence. The rest of the world, even those who admire us, shakes its collective head and wonders what’s wrong with the Americans that they are so in love with guns.
We know the standard responses. “It’s not guns that kill people … .” “You want to take guns from law-abiding citizens … .” “We have a Second Amendment right.”
None of those bumper-sticker slogans reduce gun violence.
And we know that any attempt to make gun use safer — from red-flag laws to 48-hour delays in purchasing firearms to simple registration — to save lives is portrayed by an artificial outrage industry as an attack on the Second Amendment and the American way of life.
And we know that this level of gun violence is unique to the United States. It doesn’t occur in Australia, New Zealand, France, Spain, England, Norway, Japan, Canada and other advanced nations.
Those countries have mental illness. They have disgruntled employees. They have violent video games and movies. They have criminals. They have everything we have — except easy access to guns.
The Second Amendment should not be a suicide pact.
We don’t claim to have all the answers. But solutions exist and we as a nation should unite to find them. We should demand that our political leaders find the best minds in the country — in the world — and put them to work solving this epidemic. And if they don’t, they should be voted out of office.
But to say we should do nothing is to accept that children in America will be killed in the name of freedom. It’s to accept that drivers’ lives will be put at risk when police stop them for minor infractions. It’s to accept that people who are too unstable or too criminal to have access to firearms will.
And it’s to accept the possibility that one day, it may be our own children who are in the line of fire.