Yesterday, if you listened to President Obama offer words of comfort and resolve on the worst mass shooting in U.S. history at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, you heard something that hadn't been there in any of the twenty other times Obama spoke after such violence: resignation. "This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub," he said. "And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well."
That tone of nihilism over the possibility of any real change in the gun laws of the country continued in his briefing to the press today. Obama commented, "We are also going to have to have to make sure that we think about the risks we are willing to take by being so lax in how we make very powerful firearms available to people in this country. And this is something that obviously I’ve talked about for a very long time."
We can sit here and get angry all over again. We can get angry at the Islamic fundamentalism that is functionally a kind of sociopathy, if not outright mental illness, as is the fundamentalism of any faith. We can get angry at the homophobia that right-wing politicians and pundits traffic in, often hand-in-hand with the mentally-ill Christian fundamentalists, the kind of hatred that gives silent approval to acts of violence against the LGBT community. We can get angry at politicians who refuse to do anything more than feel sorry for the victims. But the part we should be most angry about is the failure of the United States as a nation to pass any meaningful restrictions on gun ownership in the wake of a series of increasingly horrific attacks by primarily men armed with guns.
In this way, the National Rifle Association, as a body that threatens the careers of lawmakers who would vote against it and that warns that a country with fewer guns would lead to tyranny and criminal rampages, has become a domestic terrorist organization, one whose primary method is psychological attack and the undermining of democracy. Those who follow its dictates are individual terrorists who commit violent acts in the name of the terrorist organization and its radical ideology. And as things exist now, the United States has surrendered to the NRA.
We are living under the terms of that surrender, hoping that it doesn't get any worse. The NRA has millions of sleeper cells around the country, all armed with guns, even military-style rifles, awaiting some event that triggers them to action: anger at some group, loud music, walking while black, going to school. Many others have been indoctrinated into a radical ideology that says they must feel safe, even if that risks the safety of others around them, even if the threats they fear are rare or nonexistent.
In return for our surrender, the NRA has agreed to...what? Not support personal ownership of rocket launchers and grenades? We know that it can't control its lone wolves and ideology-inspired acolytes.
Under the terms of our surrender, we agree to endure regular gun massacres without changing any of the lax gun laws that make it possible for almost anyone to purchase a weapon that can allow a single person to kill dozens of others. We agree to not even talk about outlawing guns. We agree to adjust our frame of reference after every "worst mass shooting," recalibrating from 20 to 32 to, now, 50. In this way, the next time we hear about an event where 4 or 5 or 10 people are gunned down, we can think, "Well, at least it's not 50" and forget about it. We agree to keep electing lawmakers who continuously vote with the NRA, ensuring that only their support of the gun control will harm them. We agree to mourn and pray for the dead and not question when someone who is opposed to any gun laws says they are mourning and praying. We agree to pretend that suggesting that more guns is the answer isn't complete and utter madness.
We agree to die quietly, lest we disturb the delicate sensibilities of the gun owners.
We have surrendered, yes, and we just blindly hope that it doesn't get worse, yet it always does.