I feel, somehow, as if being a blogger (even a sometime blogger, as I am these days) obligates me to say something about the epidemic of gun violence in this country. Obligates me, I say, because I do believe that silence is death, and the more silence, the more death. So, this post. Even if I don’t have anything to say.
I don’t think I have written about gun control, specifically, in this Tohu Bohu of mine. I have mentioned it in passing, but I don’t think I’ve devoted an essay to it. Largely, you know, because I don’t have anything to say. I’m in favor of gun control legislation. I’m against all the guns. And there are a lot of guns.
A lot. I mean, an enormous number of guns are in private hands in this country right now. Perhaps three hundred million guns, which seems utterly and thoroughly absurd to me, but is the case. And it will continue to be true that there are hundreds of millions of guns around for the next few decades, because even if we were to somehow ban future sales of any and all guns, which we will not do, the guns that exist right now would continue to exist, unless we really do send law enforcement to confiscate the guns from sixty million people, which not only will we not do, but we could not do. We could, I suppose, also legislatively ban any additional ammunition going into private hands, which would reduce the number of operative guns somewhat more quickly, although bullet-smuggling seems easy and cheap to me, certainly more so than gun smuggling, and we have millions of illicit guns, so. We have to treat as a given fact the hundreds of millions of existing guns in our country, and the relative ease with which people will be able to get them.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t change (and enforce) the laws! We could potentially reduce gun violence by, oh, ten percent? Let’s call it ten percent. Saving the lives of three thousand people a year or so. Call it one thousand! Call if five hundred! I would be happy to have the strictest gun control we’ve ever had introduced as legislation in this country to save five hundred lives a year. I think it would be a lot more than that. Maybe—and I’m being optimistic about some knock-on effects involving culture and resources and so forth—maybe by strict gun control legislation we could cut the annual firearm fatalities bill for the next decade from three hundred thousand souls to two hundred thousand. We should do that. We should, at least, try. And for that reason, I’m contacting my representatives to reiterate my support for their for support of such legislation (if you are doing this, do not neglect to contact your state legislators! Most gun legislation is state legislation!) and am happy to see others are doing the same. It’s a Good Thing. But it won’t stop these shootings.
It won’t stop.
There has to be something else, too. Better mental health policy? Well, that’s a Good Thing in itself, but I don’t think it will stop the mass shootings, or the rest of the firearm violence in this country. A non-adversarial health care system? Yes, a Good Thing, might help. A working criminal justice system? Functioning law enforcement? Might do some good, yes. Those things are not much more politically viable than the whole confiscating-guns thing (although the logistics aren’t necessarily prohibitive, I suppose) but they are worth working for, too. Something else, something I haven’t thought of, perhaps nobody has mentioned yet? That one could work.
Not quite three years ago, Colin McEnroe wrote a column in the wake of a different such event, similar really only in that the firing of bullets into bodies produced death in quantity. And he wrote:
For just a little while, we have no choice. Children and teachers were massacred just a few miles from where you’re sitting. We have to do something.
So what comes next? Some gun control laws? Maybe some new attention to mental illness. Something in the schools. I’m all in favor. I really am. I’m all in favor of doing something before we go back to sleep.
I, too, am in favor.
If there’s an elixir, some potion we can drink, it’s almost certainly love. Right? Love is the only possible bright sparkling rope bridge we can clutch as we stutter-step through the dark universe.
What a joke. Our only good piece of equipment is love, the thing we fail at so often. We’ve been talking all week about weapons, but our only sure-fire weapon against chaos and nothingness is love.
Do you keep it oiled and cleaned? Is it right close at hand, so you can grab it and brandish it? Are you packing it right now?
My instinct today is that what we are fighting, with our brandished love, is not chaos but despair. We need hope. Local, global, national, sectional, factional, fractional, fictional. We need hope.
So that’s why I am posting, even though I don’t think it will have any practical effect. Maybe we will find that other thing in public policy. Maybe we will, in fact, get used to living with this constant violence until we have to get used to living with something worse. But not saying anything, that feels like despair.
Even if I don’t actually have anything to say.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,