The debate around gun regulations has an unusual dynamic. Supporters of gun regulations make arguments around public health, saving lives and data that shows that limiting access to guns reduces murders and mass killings. Opponents give lip service to opposing these points, but more frequently refer to the Second Amendment, which they interpret to mean that the state cannot pass any laws limiting access to guns. Gun advocates use the Second Amendment not only as a rationale for their views, but as a way so squash any debate on the subject, particularly those grounded in data. Seeing gun advocates cite the Second Amendment in the face of every guard arguments brings up memories of Charlie Brown’s response when confronted with the dismal state of his baseball team.
Political violence in America has taken many forms, but in contemporary America left wing violence has not been a major problem. The days of the Weather Underground, for example, have now receded into history. State sponsored killing of innocent African Americans, on the other hand, continues to be a major problem. Just last week, we saw this ugly phenomenon once again as, Jeronimo Yanez, the killer of Philando Castile, was acquitted. The word for being concerned about left wing violence but not the killing of innocent African Americans is racism.
The letter was an extraordinary brew of mean-spiritedness, cruelty, insensitivity, arrogance and egotism. The most quoted line from that letter, written by a man singularly incapable of empathy was "your dead kids don't trump my constitutional rights." That line is painful to read and probably makes many people angry with Joe the Plumber. The extraordinary chutzpah required to write something like that to a total stranger who has just lost a child and does not care about your opinion notwithstanding, the worst thing about that line is that it is essentially the official position of the US government.
It is the nature of progressive change that it often seems natural and inevitable in retrospect. This sometimes makes it easy to forget how much hard work it took and how much uncertainty there was in the middle of the struggle. This week provided evidence of how far we are from progressive change in other areas. The horrible shootings in both Washington DC and Chicago are a reminder, although it is not clear why anybody would need one, that gun violence remains a serious problem in the US. Both of these shooting took a terrible human tool killing a total of 13 and wounding at least that many.
These tragedies have led, not to any discussion of gun regulations, as few in Washington think there can be any progress at this time in that area. Rather, they have led to a strange kind of meta-narrative in which the theme seems to be that nobody is talking about gun regulations after these shootings. This is, of course, a way of talking about gun regulations, albeit one that is not very confrontational, nor very hopeful.