On Tuesday, a gunman targeted a fourth-grade classroom at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex., killing 21 people, 19 of them children. On May 14, a gunman shot and killed 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo. On April 12, a gunman shot 10 people in a Brooklyn, N.Y. subway station. We’re 145 days into the year and there have already been 213 mass shootings in the United States.
The problem is them, over there; it’s their fault that the kids keep getting killed.
Wrong. The problem is you.
Way back in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was castigated for saying that some Americans “cling to guns,” and for suggesting that this was unreasonable or unhealthy. The evidence — which is to say the pileup of bodies year after year — suggests he was correct.
But other politicians, seeing the backlash, learned what not to say. They learned not to point fingers, because they knew that they, too, would be accused of hating freedom, loving tyranny, overreaching in pursuit of control. They understood that they would be shouted down and then perhaps voted out.
They learned not to say the obvious: These mass shootings aren’t acts of God. The status quo is bad. Our lack of action on guns is killing people, and someone is to blame.
You. It’s your fault.
You, the gun-obsessed minority who lord over our politics and prevent change from being made. You, who mumble “thoughts and prayers” but balk at action.
counterpointLet’s be honest: On guns, the enemy is us
You, the constitutional absolutist who believes that “the right to bear arms” — written in the late 1700s, when a state-of-the-art weapon was the flintlock musket — should be expanded to include modern-day, high-capacity automatic rifles, at the cost of children’s lives.
You, the “shooting hobbyist” or “gun enthusiast” who advocates against gun control because you think anything that makes your weekend amusement even the slightest bit more difficult to participate in is not to be borne.
You, the performative patriot who believes that background checks, age limitations, training requirements — any reasonable regulations that could help keep people safe — are insufferable limitations on your freedom.
You, the sophist who says “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” as if those people aren’t killing others using guns, as if it isn’t obvious that the havoc they wreak would be much reduced had they not been given easy access to weapons of mass murder.
You, the pundit who sneers that your opponents “don’t want a solution” and then refuses to provide your own, preferring to use a tragedy to build your brand.
You, who would rather forget about the children murdered and the families broken, because if we thought about them too much you’d feel bad and might have to give something up.
Lest I be accused of being one-sided, let’s not stop the finger-pointing there. If it’s a “you” problem, it’s an “us” problem, too — the United States and its culture writ large, right and left included.
A country that defines itself by its freedom — and has, over decades, fetishized a misguided ideal of “liberty” that values the individual over everyone and everything else.
A country that touts its dynamism yet dithers, its leaders wringing their hands and offering empty platitudes — “we have to find solutions,” “we must take action” — as if the solutions aren’t obvious, as if the actions one could take haven’t been modeled for us by other countries for decades.
A country that exports democracy but whose politicians pretend that their jobs are meaningless, who believe that when it comes to gun control, “legislation doesn’t work” — despite the fact that they were elected to write it.
It’s easy to find excuses for why this keeps happening. We’ve done it for decades. But the comforting fictions have worn thin, to the point of transparency.
It’s time to stop feigning helplessness. To stop pretending we are the ones under attack. To stop gaslighting the real victims, who have already suffered tragedy enough.
It’s time to admit that we — we Americans, and the rationalizations we tolerate — are to blame. Only then can we shoulder the responsibility to act.