To those of us who wondered when, if ever, a significant majority of Americans would develop a shuddering loathing of the appalling gun violence that occurs daily in this country—rather than passing it off with callous indifference as some sort of inevitable, unavoidable by-product of the “price of freedom”—I can now say: The time is now.
Exactly why it took the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on February 14—as opposed to the hundreds of other mass shootings that have occurred in the United States over the past half-century—to turn the tide is a question only experts in abnormal psychology can answer. But the times, folks, they are a-changin’. True, not a great deal of new gun-control legislation has passed so far even at the state or municipal level, but these things take time, and there is every reason to believe that this time, gun-safety advocates are not about to shrug their shoulders in defeat as they have done so many times in the past in the wake of governmental inaction. Instead, the new agitation—led, incredibly and admirably, by students—is taking a long-range view of targeting (pardon the pun) those many legislators whom the NRA has manipulated as human shields to stymie even the most marginal and commonsensical reforms. These stooges are suddenly finding that that coveted A rating from our leading domestic terrorist organization is now something of a scarlet letter.
The dreary statistics regarding gun violence in this country hardly need to be rehearsed. Why are gun deaths and injuries (which include accidents and suicides) six to ten times as high in the United States as in other industrialized countries? I suppose it is remotely possible that Americans are uniquely prone to violence or that they are uniquely afflicted with paranoia, schizophrenia, and other mental ailments; any nation that elected our current “president” can hardly be said to be psychologically healthy. But surely the fact that we have 80,000 casualties annually from guns has just a wee bit to do with the fact that there is one gun for every man, woman, and child in this country. (That statistic is itself misleading: only about a third of American households actually own guns—but that means, alarmingly, that many of these households own a lot of guns.)