This morning, the country woke up to the tragic news that a gunman had opened fire at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, and killed 12 people. The number of injured was initially reported at 38, but new reports have put it at 59. I want to say it’s “shocking”, but it’s not. It feels inevitable.
But today, social networks are in an uproar about gun control and gun violence. It’s the roar that comes every 6-12 months because it rarely takes longer than a year for another one of these massacres to occur. And then the uproar dies down, and we move on to the latest news story. It’s also a little strange that gun violence only seems to rouse people to action when it’s in a cluster. Massacres make headlines, but I don’t hear an outcry on Twitter on a daily basis. There were 12,632 gun-related homicides in 2007. What makes those gun deaths less notable than those that happened at the Aurora Century 16 theater?
The question we’ve become forced to ask ourselves is not “Why does this happen?” but “Why doesn’t this happen more often?”
There’s no political will to make it stop. If Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords getting shot in the head doesn’t spur congress to action on tougher gun control laws, then a bunch of Batman fans at a midnight screening isn’t going to register. Just like a bunch of college kids at Virginia Tech didn’t register. Just like the birthday party killings in Texas didn’t register (I didn’t even remember the one until The New Yorker mentioned it). Taking on guns is a political loser because it means wasting a lot of money fighting the NRA, and stronger gun control doesn’t get candidates elected. Americans don’t like being told what we can’t do and what we can’t have.
This post isn’t a call to ban guns, or a call for stricter gun laws. This isn’t a call for anything. It’s just an observation about how we could have had today’s discussion about guns yesterday, and we’ll probably be having this conversation a year from now. The problem of gun violence in America never dies.
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