Bullet Points

By Jewish Light Editorial

“I wish to God she had an M-4 in her office locked up — so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands.” 

— Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Tex, on “Fox News Sunday,” referring to Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung

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How in the world does one respond to this statement with other than utter astonishment? Nevertheless, this is the way that several hardcore gun advocates have expressed themselves on the heels of one of the worst mass murders in American history.

Zealotry tends to be an awful thing when it comes to public policy. Its adherents often leave little room for disagreement, treating those with opposing views as necessary casualties on the battleground of ideas.

So it is with pro-gun advocacy. The vehemence of the rhetoric is perhaps best reflected in Charlton Heston’s resounding and memorable statement, given during a 2001 speech at a National Rifle Association meeting in Kansas City: “I have five words for you – from my cold, dead hands.”

As often the case with zealotry, the facts are asked to shape themselves to the doctrine, rather than meeting somewhere in the middle. That’s why the pro-gun lobby won’t acknowledge that ready and easy access to guns — in some cases ones that only belong on a military battlefield — is even a contributing factor to the 12,000 or so gun-related homicides in the United States each year.

This despite the fact that the 26 children and adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary are less than the approximately 30 Americans on average who die daily in gun-related homicides. Yes, you read that right — while we of course are especially numb after the random killing of young children, the numerical equivalent of a Sandy Hook happens every single day in this country. That doesn’t even include the number of suicides by gun, or the many more thousands of assaults and injuries conducted with the assistance of guns.

The gun lobby’s position is intellectually fraudulent, but not because there’s something inherently wrong or evil with wanting to own a gun. We know it’s fraudulent for at least these two reasons:

1. There is no legitimate purpose to own a semiautomatic weapon that can discharge dozens upon dozens of rounds in seconds, yet gun proponents continue to push for their availability. Yet gun lobbyists will undoubtedly keep utilizing the “slippery slope” argument to defend their ranks from any new regulations whatsoever.

This barrier may soon erode, however, if the response to Sandy Hook is any measure. Take the case of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), who receives high ratings from the NRA. Manchin is willing to take a new look at laws regarding certain types of weaponry and ammunition.

“I don’t know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle,” Manchin said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I don’t know anybody who needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting. I mean, these are things that need to be talked about,” he added.

2. Gun proponents consistently want to point at other causes than actual gun possession as responsible for all gun-related killings. How many times have you heard the mantra “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”

Let’s undercut this premise immediately — we agree that there are multiple reasons for terrible tragedies like Sandy Hook to occur. A lack of sufficient resources for mental health diagnosis, treatment and counseling services; a shortage of law enforcement personnel and systems to better assess and understand local populations; and better education about safety and security at schools and other institutions.

Herein lies the problem, however: So many who are on the side of pervasive gun distribution don’t support government resources for these kinds of social service programs. Grover Norquist, for instance, the stridently anti-tax advocate who consistently opposes new spending, has been on the NRA board. So has former Georgia legislator and ultra-conservative Bob Barr and many, many former and current lawmakers.

As it becomes obvious that gun advocates don’t really support spending on meaningful programs to address the factors other than gun control, it becomes equally obvious that laying off the blame on non-gun reasons for dramatic violence is basically a smokescreen. It’s not intended to find a solution; it’s summoned to divert attention from the real and substantial role gun proliferation plays in the equation.

Many have opined that the time is ripe on the heels of Sandy Hook for President Barack Obama, with support of other federal, state and local leaders, to call for strong and meaningful limitations on the distribution of weapons intended solely to kill many people at once. While it is sad we have to focus on such matters on the heels of such a disaster as befell the children and adults in Connecticut, we ask only: If not now, when?