Everyone — gun owners and gun-control advocates, immigrants and those who seek to build a wall — witnessed a bleak and dispiriting 24-hour period last week.
That much should be a point of agreement. At least 29 people were killed in two mass shootings, one Saturday in El Paso, Texas, and the other, hours later, in Dayton, Ohio.
After that, we witness the typical retreat to rhetorical safe zones following a tragedy of this scale (or scales): Trump eggs on extremists, gun-free zones are not safe zones, the authors of the Constitution didn’t anticipate automatic weapons, big cities with gun restrictions experience a greater degree of deadly violence in a single month.
This is not a debate but a series of talking points. Politicians on the left and right owe it to the American people to sit down and discuss this issue with an acknowledgment of two realities: that the vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens and that this level of gun violence needs to stop.
The problem isn’t too many guns but too little respect for human life. In its most extreme form, this is manifest in the constant reference to immigrants as invaders, rapists and parasites in search of free stuff. The Nazi era shows that if you can vilify a minority or a particular group, if you can whip people into a frenzy, you can justify doing almost anything to them.
Is it any wonder that a deranged person, hearing this language, took it upon himself shoot up a Walmart near a major border crossing? This level of hatred deserves repudiation from every element of society, which the president attempted to do Monday, and it should be noted that racial hatred is not the basis for every mass shooting. The common theme appears to be alienated young men with incoherent world views and an all-too-easy ability to spread hate on the internet and social media.
Americans have long become numb to gun violence. This weekend’s tragic events should provoke a thoughtful discussion, not political point-scoring, on ways to both prevent mass shootings and acknowledge First and Second Amendment rights.
Consider a Small Arms Survey showing that the nations with the three-highest rates of per-capita gun ownership are the United States, Switzerland and Yemen. Switzerland is a peaceful, multilingual nation that sees few murders. The Swiss view gun ownership as essential to the nation’s neutrality, much the same way many Americans view the Second Amendment as key to our freedoms.
Yemen is embroiled in a civil war and is considered one of the most dangerous places in the world, with no part of the country immune from kidnapping or violence.
Which way are we heading?