Trigger warning. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

You are, no doubt, familiar with the five stages of grief.

Tragedy strikes. Then the grieving begins.

Take Newtown.

First comes denial. No, you think. This can’t happen. This was the unthinkable.

Then, anger. The anger lingers a long time.

Then bargaining. Well, you think, maybe we can wring some good out of this. At least this must have been the extreme example, after which no one could possibly argue that we didn’t have a crisis on our hands. Let’s go down to the Senate and move the bargaining there. Let’s bargain over things like background checks. Let’s wrangle our political capital and debate this in the public sphere. Let’s haggle with history and try to extract some value, something good, out of all this horror. We can’t prevent what already happened. That’s always the instinct after tragedy, and it’s the one thing you can’t do. But maybe we can stop something else.

Then comes the Senate vote, where literally every major proposal to overhaul the nation’s gun laws gets voted down.

That stage is called depression.

Yes, every proposal (so far). The big broad ones. The smaller, more carefully tailored compromises. The rejected reforms even included an NRA-supported measure clarifying gun trafficking laws; it got just one more vote than a plan that would actually expand concealed carry rights. The Senate seemed unclear on what the purpose of this exercise of bringing up so much gun-related legislation was.

When you see the result of the voting, and read the scathing op-ed from Rep. Gabrielle  Giffords (“Speaking is physically difficult for me. But my feelings are clear: I’m furious.”), it is hard to be anything but depressed.

In a world wracked with uncertainty, the Senate wants to make certain that we know some things will never change. No matter how much we might want them to.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The Senate is doing the same thing over and over — nothing.

“We can’t change the laws that determine how much access Americans have to guns,” the Senate said Wednesday. “That would be letting Them win.” When the Senate learns that it has lung cancer, it rushes out to buy more cigarettes, just to make a point.

If current trends continue, another tragedy will guarantee that we have a law passed requiring all Americans to carry at least six guns at all times, just to show the Vile Perpetrators of Heinous Crimes who’s boss: the NRA.

Not the American people. The American people would actually like a little bit more gun regulation now, thank you. Nine out of 10 polled Americans thought universal background checks were a good idea. But that didn’t matter, because 46 out of 100 Americans in the Senate thought otherwise.

“You’re not the boss of me!” the Senate added.

“Actually, we are,” the voters started to say. Why bother? The vocal minority prevails. The squeaky wheel gets the firearms. In response to mass public outcry, the Senate did a lovely impression of an ostrich, but instead of burying its head in the sand it used the giant piles of NRA cash lying handy.

Sure, the president did a good job of selling the proposals to the American people. This was a silly mistake. The Senate is not there to respond to the will of the people. The Founders conceived the Senate as a cooling saucer. The People and their teacup of direct representatives in the House would pour their scalding hot legislation into the Senate, and the Senate would respond by – doing nothing, but insisting that the teacup carry around an extra firearm wherever it went. “Don’t you feel safer now?” the saucer asked. “I thought you were supposed to cool and temper the will of the people,” we mutter, “not dump out the will of the people on the ground and replace it with something nasty that nobody requested.”

I know there’s a fifth stage of grieving. But I’m not ready for it yet.


I don’t want to accept that this is always how it goes.

But for now, that’s certainly how it looks. So much for the Unthinkable Extreme that would change the debate. For the moment, it’s back to square one.

No. Back to square two. And I think there’s enough anger to last for a while.