It’s time for some truth-telling. We don’t care about gun violence. We don’t care if teachers have guns, we don’t care if guys with a history of domestic violence have guns, we don’t care if kids have guns nor do we care if kids shoot each other with the guns they are given. You can try to deny it, but as I tell my kids, “Words matter, but actions matter more.” The actions of our elected officials (actions that are supposed to represent what their voters want) tell the story — apparently Americans don’t care who has guns or what they do with them.
I’ve told myself that I do care. I’ve told my classes that we should care. I’ve led discussions about the ways in which we might be sensible, rational, and reasonable in determining who can have a gun. Those discussions happened in my Ethics class. Trevor Irby was in my Ethics class. I haven’t asked his family’s permission to write about him, and I don’t want to minimize the impact of his life by only focusing on his tragic death, so I won’t. Unfortunately for all of us, I don’t need to focus on Trevor to draw attention to the effects of gun violence in America. That’s why it makes me even more upset to see that this keeps happening. Doesn’t anyone care?
I’ve run into my fair share of people who want to tell me just how sacred the 2nd Amendment is (like Congressman Tom Reed who says his commitment to the 2nd Amendment prevents him from taking meaningful action). I always respond that I find human life sacred and with all the steps we take to protect people in other areas, eliminating civilian access to military-style weapons is AOK with me. Plus, I have a hard time taking someone’s rant about the 2nd Amendment seriously when it’s clear that it’s the only amendment — and likely the only thing about the Constitution in general — that they care about. The next time you find yourself debating responsible gun ownership with someone who believes that any restriction is “a violation of the basic principles of the Constitution,” try asking them to explain how the Founding Fathers’ commitment to popular sovereignty is captured in today’s electoral college. The people claiming to defend the Constitution don’t always seem to know too much about the rest of it.
In reality, the number of Americans who advocate an “anything goes” gun policy is very small. Polling done by media across the political spectrum returns similar results: the majority of Americans support banning assault weapons, eliminating high-capacity magazines, and raising the minimum age to purchase a gun of any type to 21. That makes sense. After all, what kind of hunter needs more than six rounds to get the job done? Not a hunter you’d really want to go out hunting with! Also, the fact that something is called an “assault” weapon should be reason enough to keep it out of people’s hands.
Unfortunately, the voices of the minority who believe that sensible gun legislation is a bigger threat to freedom then schoolchildren having to submit to active shooter drills are amplified by lobbyists in order to funnel money and favors to elected officials. And those legislators sure do tow the line. The issue of “gun rights” has become an easy way to divide people, and the fact that we don’t fully confront this fact and expose the truth is another sign that we have just stopped caring.
If you still insist that you actually do care, and if you believe that you are part of the majority of Americans who don’t believe that weapons of mass destruction are something every American should be able to purchase on a whim, and if you understand that sensible gun restrictions are not the enemy of all freedom, then you need to do more than just say it to your friends or post it on Facebook. Call your legislators and tell them to stop being silly and start being responsible and mature adults. Ask them to pass any one of the many bills out there that would limit just the worst of the worst guns, because that would be a start. Here is the number to the U.S. House of Representatives switchboard that will connect you directly with your congressperson: (202) 225-3121. And here’s the number to reach your senators: (202) 224-3121.
Tell them that Americans do care more about the right to life than the right to own rapid-fire, military-grade, weapons of assault.