But more killing is coming. The dire future can be told in the numbers: 329 million Americans, nearly 400 million guns, some of them AR-this or AR-that, with special stocks that were developed for war but can be bought down the block or at the mall. Even if you cannot pass a background check, you can pass by the place where, illegally, you won’t need one. Cash will do just nicely.
This is largely the doing of an obdurately malicious Republican Party . . . and a scattering of Democrats. But it’s the GOP that has done the bidding of the National Rifle Association to prohibit the use of federal funds to even study the effects of gun violence. Many a medieval cleric would cheer such a ban. Knowledge is dangerous. It can challenge belief.
Oh, where is our Poggio Bracciolini? He was the 15th-century figure who discovered the Roman poet Lucretius’s “On the Nature of Things” — which explored Epicurean physics — in a German monastery. According to Stephen Greenblatt’s marvelous book, “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern,” it was Bracciolini’s discovery that set Europe on a course to modernity — reason’s eventual triumph over religiosity.
We are now plunged into a contemporary dark age. Science is mocked and rebuked. Man’s role in global warming is rejected. Science is in near-unanimous agreement: Some sort of apocalypse is coming. Cruise ships now go where, until recently, only hardy ice breakers dared venture. Storms of rare violence are now increasingly common. New Orleans is in peril; Houston is where it does not belong, and Miami Beach and Manhattan are threatened.
Around the globe, migrants flee unbearable heat, expanding deserts and the Four Horsemen that accompany such debacles.
What is the GOP’s response? President Trump met climate change head-on by pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord. He pitted his faith in his own intelligence against the finding of scientists: “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers.” He partook of the waters and sniffed the air and found them “at a record clean.” Presumably they will only get cleaner by permitting even more carbon emissions. If there is not virtue in inaction, there are at least votes.
The problem of gun violence is met with pageantry. Often, first comes the posting of some idiotic manifesto and then the violence itself. It is met by law enforcement officers dressed and armed for war. Armored vehicles are rolled up, virtual tanks, but there are none on the other side — usually just a lone gunman whose bloody work is already done. He is killed, usually, his Internet entrails examined for odd beliefs and weird obsessions.
These incidents are our domestic Afghanistan. Our homegrown Taliban keep coming, keep killing. We label them — white nationalist, domestic terrorism — affix a category (hate crime), erect memorials of bodega flowers, promise futile mental health programs, as if these things can be predicted — but do nothing about the weapons without which such mass killing would be impossible. Certainly, gun advocates have a point when they say it is people who kill people. But those people use guns. No one can outlaw people. Guns are a different matter entirely.
El Paso and Dayton are not what the Framers had in mind with the Second Amendment. They did not envision a right of Americans to wantonly kill Americans. This was not their notion of a “well regulated militia.” It is, instead, politically permitted mayhem.
Political realism dictates that absolute gun control is not possible. But it is possible to ban military-style weapons — the guns themselves and all their paraphernalia. All that stands in the way is a GOP that, like some medieval church that blames sickness on witchcraft, praises myth and ignorance and repudiates science. This is the Republican platform: passivity about climate change and inaction about gun violence. It is a dark age indeed.
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