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"If I'm ever killed in a mass shooting . . ."

“If I’m ever killed in a mass shooting, promise me that you will fight for stronger gun laws.”

This was what my 17-year-old son Tim said at lunch on Sunday, after hearing about the most recent violence in Sutherland Springs, TX. “If I’m ever killed in a mass shooting . . .”

Okay, so the odds of this happening to any one person, even after Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, are infinitesimally low. But the thought is present, and I can give my son no perfect reassurance. This is our reality, unique to the United States of America. Unless I’m completely missing it, or the news is not reporting it, there is no other country where this type of gun violence happens in this way, with such numbing regularity.

Waiting for the next large-scale gun attack is like waiting for the next earthquake; we know it will happen, we know if may be big, and we don’t quite know where. Actually, with earthquakes, we can somewhat narrow it down by geography and geology, but we are all in play for the next deranged murderer with his private arsenal.

At this point, I can only, wearily rehash arguments made before. If an oil tanker exploded, killing 26 people, government authorities would try to prevent such a thing from happening again. If a consumer product malfunctioned, causing that many deaths, there would be a recall. . . Blah, blah, blah. I’m rehashing arguments already made. Nobody is listening.

A decent response, in a rational society, would be to take this on as a national emergency, worthy of serious investigation and research. “How can we stop mass shootings from happening in our country?” might be a good question for a blue-ribbon bi-partisan task force. But I haven’t heard anyone call for even that milquetoast response. “Let’s not be so hasty,” they say. “It’s complicated.” “You’re not a gun owner; you don’t understand.” “Don’t politicize it.”

I will now politicize it, because when it comes to guns in America, a simple cliché holds true: Follow the money.

Go to Google. Type in “gun sales after mass shootings”. See what comes up. The reporting on this is consistent: After a mass shooting, gun sales increase. Article after article confirms this. As The Atlantic explains:

There are a few reasons Americans buy more guns after shootings. Some describe wanting to protect themselves from violence; others worry that high-profile massacres will lead to stricter gun regulations, or a ban on the purchase of firearms entirely. Both of those impressions add some urgency to buying a gun, so demand goes up, and, in anticipation of that, so do the share prices of gun makers shortly after a shooting.

This couldn’t work out any better for the gun manufacturers and sellers than if they sat in their board room, put pins on a map, and hire some pathetic loser to be the next mass killer. Send him on his way, let him do the dirty work, and BINGO! Profits go up.

And lest you say I’m overblowing this, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton went on Fox News to say that Sunday’s incident shows that parishioners should carry guns to services. Nice. Another corporate/NRA shill helping push sales.

All of this explains why gun companies are none too eager for the mass shooting trend to stop, and why they continue to fund the NRA to push their message opposing any form of gun control against even the most powerful of weapons.

Here are some of the arguments they roll out:

  • Even if you put restrictions on guns, nothing would have stopped this guy from getting the weapons he wanted, since he was hell-bent on killing. Maybe. How do we know? Have we even tried? If the killer in Las Vegas had slightly less firepower, might some people still be alive today?

  • Even without guns, this guy was determined to kill. So restricting guns accomplishes nothing. Yes, but come on. Would he have killed 26 people with a knife? What was the maniac in Las Vegas going to do—throw swords down from the window of Mandalay Bay?

  • The vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens, and taking guns away for the actions of the deranged few infringes on the rights of the overwhelming majority. I agree with the first part. The second part is where gun control advocates and gun rights supporters always disagree. Those on my side are worried more about weapons in the hands of the wrong people, while my opponents are worried about losing rights they perceive to have. But Sunday’s incident provides a powerful case in point. The San Antonio Express-News reports that the church shooter passed background checks to purchase his guns, despite “a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force in 2012, which followed a domestic violence conviction.” And the Air Force didn’t even report the domestic violence that they actually knew about. If we don’t want to strengthen restrictions on people like that to have terroristic weapons, then we really don’t want to try.

  • We need more guns in the hands of decent, honest citizens. If they had had weapons, they might have had a chance to stop the killer. Here again is Attorney General Paxton’s argument. Beyond the crassness of it, I have a hard time buying the logic of this. Sunday’s mass killing took place in a state where guns are fairly common, and still no one was able to resist. A thousand guns on the streets of Las Vegas wouldn’t have stopped the previous mass shooting, nor would it have worked in Newtown, CT.

If you know someone who makes arguments like these, or if you make them yourself, understand that you’ve been sold a bill of goods. Trace the line from gun profits, to NRA marketing, to elected officials parroting the corporate line, to your own defense of weak gun laws. They got you. And if you say, no way, people can’t be manipulated like this, please be serious. If that were true, there would be no advertising industry, no professional marketing consultants. We are all, to some extent, subject to the messages we receive. For example, who am I if not someone whose attitudes are molded, at least in part by my exposure to The New York Times and similar sources. I’m beginning to recognize this. You should too.

I’m angry. I’m bitter. We sat by and let things continue even after a score of beautiful first graders, along with their teachers, were obliterated by gunfire. Then it happened again. And again. Where next? All we can hope is that it won’t happen to us. But for the foreseeable future, young people like my son will continue to say, “If I’m ever killed in a mass shooting . . .”

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