After every mass shooting, every schoolhouse massacre, every mass media image of carnage and grief and makeshift memorials, the voices of those who do not want to do anything about this national disgrace quickly and easily roll out the same tired old clichés.
They don’t even have to think about it.
“It’s too soon.”
“Don’t politicize a tragedy.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones.”
Fine. Those are their repeated arguments. Here are some of ours:
“President Trump is right. It is about mental health.
“And President Trump is wrong. It is about guns.
“But, mostly, it is about guns. ...”
— Tribune Editorial, Nov. 7, 2017 (Sutherland Springs, Texas)
“No, it is not too soon.
“Today, and yesterday, and the last time, and the next time, are all the time to talk about why, alone of all the nations on earth, the United States has to wake up morning after morning to deal with news of yet another mass shooting.
“Other nations have people with extreme political views. Other nations have lonely people with serious mental illnesses. Other nations have people who are poor, desperate, suicidal, bigoted, paranoid and angry.
“But only the United States of America feels compelled to give those people the means to kill other people, often strangers, often in large numbers. Or, even more often, in comparatively small numbers — just three or four — so that they apparently fall beneath our notice. ...”
— Tribune Editorial, Oct. 3, 2017 (Las Vegas)
“What do you call a lonely, mentally ill, homophobic terrorist sympathizer whose wife left him after only a few months of marriage because he was physically abusive?
“Most of the time, you don’t call him anything at all.
“You will probably never hear of him. You can easily avoid him if he is walking down the street, listening to an Islamic State podcast, mumbling something to himself about the horrors of men kissing each other in public.
“But make it possible, if not ridiculously easy, for that same sad soul to own the so-called ‘civilian version’ of the U.S. Army’s basic assault weapon — with extra-large magazines — and you call him the latest in America’s tragic litany of mass murderers. ...”
— Tribune Editorial, June 14, 2016 (Orlando Pulse nightclub)
“A gun without a madman will not destroy an entire classroom of innocent children. A madman without a gun would be unable to cause anywhere near the level of horror that occurred Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“It is at the intersection of those pathologies — a nation led by politicians forever fearful of the powerful gun lobby and a society that shuns all aspects of mental illness into perpetual shadow — that America too often finds itself standing. ...”
— Tribune Editorial, Dec. 14, 2012 (Newtown, Conn.)
This week, in the bloody wake of the latest schoolhouse horror — this one causing the deaths of 17 people in Parkland, Fla. — some new voices are trying to cut through the wall of “Thoughts and prayers.”
Said one student who survived the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, “We’re children. You guys are, like, the adults, and you need to take some action.”
Yes, we adults do need to take some action. Ban the sale of military-style weapons to civilians. Prohibit the gadgets that turn semi-automatic weapons into full-on assault weapons. Run background checks on everyone and beef up the reporting system that is supposed to keep all guns out of the hands of people known to the criminal justice or mental health systems as untrustworthy.
Don’t allow politicians to shift the argument to flaws in the mental health system, serious though they are, when those same politicians have repealed rules that were designed to make it harder for those already found to be mentally ill to acquire firearms.
No action, or series of actions, will solve all of our violent tendencies and avenues for expressing those tendencies. But the repeated, almost automatic, argument that there is nothing that can be done is not worth of us, and not true.
No matter how many times we hear it.