Thursday, October 5, 2017

It's Not the Time to Talk About Guns

If you're at all familiar with me or my writing, you know that the proliferation of gun violence in our country is a major concern of mine.

In the wake of mass shootings such as the horrific attack in Las Vegas earlier this week, the NRA and many politicians (most of whom have pockets lined by the NRA) trot out the same sound bite over and over again: "Now is not the time to talk about reforming gun control laws."  "It would be disrespectful to the memory of the victims to politicize their deaths by having this conversation now."

As I process my manifold emotions that arise as more details about the shooting come to light, I;ve thought long and hard about this...
You know what?
They're absolutely right.

Yep, I'll admit it.  As much as I have come to loathe the NRA and many pro-gun politicians over the years, I have to concede.  They're right.  This is not the time for conversation about reforming our nation's gun laws.

That time for conversation isn't coming tomorrow.  Or next week.  Or next month.

That time is long past.

We should have had that conversation after Columbine.  After Newtown.  After Gabby Giffords.  After Aurora.  After Charleston.  After the congressional baseball game.  After any of the 273 mass shootings that took place in this country within the first 275 days of 2017.  After any of the shootings that have taken place since 1968- a number that has resulted in more American casualties than the combined battlefield deaths in all American conflicts since the founding of our nation.

There have been ample opportunities to have that conversation.  But each time, politicians under the sway of the NRA and its money/lobbying machine have prevented the conversation from ever getting off the ground.  Thanks to NRA lobbying, the CDC can't even research gun deaths as a health epidemic, which they quite clearly are, or collect any statistical data on the subject.

In Pirke Avot, "The Ethics of the Fathers," a section of the Mishnah containing brief words of wisdom from rabbinic sages, Shimon ben Gamliel teaches, "לא המדרש עקר אלא המעשה- lo ha-midrash ikar eleh ha-ma'aseh: the discussion is not the central focus; rather, the action is."

So enough waiting for the conversation.  Let's take action.  Here are a few suggestions; undoubtedly there are other things that can be done that will be equally impactful:

- Withhold votes from those who accept money from the NRA.  I'm not completely anti-gun.  I personally believe that there are steps that can be taken to ensure responsible gun ownership by private citizens.  But the NRA has steadily transformed itself from a group advocating on behalf of gun enthusiasts to a group that has lost all sense of logic and decency and has steadfastly opposed even the merest hint of dialogue on any meaningful reform.  So long as they continue to fund politicians, said politicians will put their financial self-interest over the interest and safety of their constituents.

- Offer financial support to advocacy groups such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence or Everytown for Gun Safety.

- Encourage your local law enforcement officials to participate in this campaign by the advocacy group Do Not Stand Idly By.  Law enforcement buys about 15% of the guns purchased in America; the military buys about 25%.  If these groups would commit to requiring certain safety standards from the gun manufacturers from whom they purchase, then this buying power could be used to have a major impact on the way guns are manufactured and sold in our country.

- Refuse to shop at sporting goods retailers that fetishize guns their advertising and/or derive a majority of their income from firearm sales.

- Support retailers who prohibit firearms on their premises.  Pro-gun groups have tried to organize boycotts of such businesses.  It is important for Americans who want sensible approaches to firearm safety to patronize these businesses and let management know that we support their decision to keep their establishments gun-free.

- Be that parent.  If your child is playing in a household where there may be a firearm, have the conversation with the hosting adult and make certain that the guns are fully secured.

Conversation and action aren't going to take place at the legislative level.  That's been made clear far too often.  Those of us who believe the time for change is far overdue must work at the grassroots level to make our voices heard.  We must make clear that we've had enough-- that the time for action is now.

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