The Do Nothing Policy: Gun Violence in America
A moment of silence, that’s all they did. In the latest incident of gun violence and mass shootings, forty-nine people were murdered, and just as many wounded by one man, armed with a pistol and a military assault rifle. And consistent with the unwritten yet carved in stone national policy regarding gun violence, our political leaders did nothing.
America is awash in both firearms and gun fatalities. As of 2014, there were 318.9 million Americans compared to an estimated 357 million guns. The disparity of over 37 million more guns than Americans is likely to grow.
The last 50 years have seen 126 mass shootings, with an average of 7 people killed per incident. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/mass-shootings-in-america/. Every year 33,000 Americans lose their lives to firearms, a number that eclipses those killed in Jihad inspired terrorist attacks by tens of thousands. And still we do nothing.
The Second Amendment reads, a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. Sadly, the part that refers to a well regulate militia is intentionally ignored and the term people misconstrued to mean individuals rather than free states, unencumbered by an overbearing central government. Worse, the shall not be infringed provision has been interpreted to make the issue of gun control politically untenable.
For example, the right to bear arms is presumed to be so central to our freedoms that it trumps all other considerations including public safety, the competing rights of others and common sense. This rule of inviolability makes any law curbing individual gun ownership an unconstitutional infringement on the right to bear arms.
In order to overcome this presumption/rule, any restriction must be perfect in design, implementation and effect. No matter how viable or reasonable, whether background checks, magazine restrictions or various watch lists, the limitation must be absolutely necessary and guaranteed to prevent any and all conceivable gun related deaths, violence and/or abuse, absent any inconvenience to gun owners whatsoever. This is an impossible burden to meet.
Second, the presumption of inviolability and the test of perfection are applied only to the Second Amendment. We do not assume for example, that the 1st Amendment is absolute. There are any number of reasonable time, manner and place restrictions on freedom of speech, the press and/or the practice of religion.
Nor do we argue that criminal laws against sexual assault, child abuse, theft, or battery must be discarded because they fail to prevent all rapes, abuses, thefts or batteries. To do so would result in the elimination of all criminal sanctions. Yet, this is precisely what we demand of reasonable gun legislation.
The rule of inviolability is further supported by the notions that all that is necessary to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun, the solution to gun violence in America is more guns, or any limitation on gun ownership is really an attempt to take our guns away. These are talking points with no basis in reality.
There have been armed secured at any number of sites where mass shootings have occurred, including Orlando. Moreover, no legislation has been introduced to ban gun ownership.
We readily concede that guns can and are used for sport, to hunt and for legitimate self-defense. We further admit that guns have been used to save lives. But, the guns don’t kill people, people kill people, fiction is an absurdity.
The very purpose of firearms is to blow a hole in the intended target. Little wonder that living creatures, including people suffer death and grievous injury when shot.
This is especially true of high-powered, high-capacity, military assault weapons such as the one used in Orlando. Created and intended for use on the battlefield, the sole purpose of these weapons is to kill from a safe distance, as many people as possible, as quickly, efficiently and assuredly as possible. All that is necessary is to load the weapon, point and spray the kill zone.
This is why gun violence and mass shooting have increased exponentially, why high-powered, rapid fire, military style weapons with high magazine capacity are the weapons of choice and why gun violence and mass shootings are largely an American phenomena.
Consider further any Fourth of July weekend in Chicago. In 2013, 72 people were shot, 12 fatally. In 2014, 82 were shot, 14 of whom expired. And in 2015, 55 were wounded in gun violence, 10 fatally. See http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2013/0708/Chicago-erupts-in-gun-violence-74-people-shot-12-killed-over-July-4-week, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/report-82-shot-14-killed-in-chicago-4th-of-july-weekend-shootings/, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-violence-20150706-story.html, respectively.
Consistent with the do nothing policy concerning gun violence, our response is to bemoan the tragic loss of human life, pray, bury the dead and blame everyone else for how we treat each other. Add any other urban community to the analysis, or the remaining 362 days of the year and our do-nothingness is more than policy. It is instead an addiction. And like any addict we will use again.
Whether motivated by Islamic radicalization, mental illness, anti-abortion fever, racial hatred, anti-gay bias or criminal proclivity, another gun related homicide or mass shooting will inevitably occur. Whether in a workplace, school, house of worship, military installation, restaurant, post office, retail outlet or movie theater, no place is safe.
Nine worshipers were shot and killed in prayer, while attending a church in Charleston, South Carolina and we did nothing. Twelve postal worker were slain in an Edmond, Oklahoma post office and we did nothing. Twenty seven college students at the University of Texas, 32 at Virginia Tech and 12 high school attendees at Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado were gunned down and we did nothing.
Twenty elementary school students and teachers at Sandy Hook in Newton, Connecticut and 30 in Stockton, California were the victims of gun violence and we did nothing. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while giving a speech and we did nothing. Forty-nine people have now been killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and still we do nothing. No matter the facts and circumstances of gun violence our response is always the same. Do nothing.
In conclusion, each and every day in every city in America someone is needlessly shot and killed. If we cannot work up the outrage; the moral courage to stop the slaughter of the innocent, when if ever will we do something to end gun violence in America?
Leo Barron Hicks, President and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum