It is natural for people to involuntarily react to repulsive stimulus, but it is also natural to revert to the current or existing state of affairs that existed previously because human beings are creatures of habit. Americans are notoriously reflexive to tragedies whether they are natural or man-made disasters, but they are just as likely to revert back to their state of affairs out of comfort, laziness, and inability to persevere in the face of resistance. As the country comes to grips with another mass shooting, there are already signs that the Sandy Hook school massacre and reaction will follow the same path as previous massacres, and it is a tragedy the nation appears set to fall back on the status quo of apathy, extra guns, theocracy, and despite misguided appeals for more weapons and more god, the nation is ill-prepared to address the real problem; more guns.
Within a day of the Sandy Hook killing spree, the religious right reverted to their typical response that 20 first-graders and teachers were murdered because god was evicted from public schools. Although America’s educational system was never parochial, evangelical nutjobs labor under the delusion that mandatory prayer and bible-based instruction would have protected the children and their teachers from Adam Lanza and his slain mother’s assault weapons. The question the religious right should be asking is why the school children who attended church were abandoned by their god and why he stood by while Nancy Lanza amassed a small arsenal and taught her mentally disturbed son how to fire weapons better suited for a battlefield, than a quiet Connecticut neighborhood. However, the simple fact remains that god or no god, if Adam Lanza did not have access to a small armory of human-killing guns, 20 first graders and 6 of their caretakers would be looking forward to a nice Christmas. God had nothing to do with the horrific massacre; readily available and legal assault weapons did, and gun activists want to see more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens like Nancy Lanza.
A ready response to mass shootings from the National Rifle Association dating back to Reagan was that banning guns means only criminals will be armed, and it is a scare tactic meant to incite the gun-loving crowd their existence is in jeopardy any time gun control is addressed. The NRA has promoted siege mentality among its members and gun owners that gun control legislation is a government plot to confiscate and ban all gun ownership in America, and although calls to seize all guns and criminalize their possession are non-existent, the NRA inflames freedom-loving “patriots” that one cannot be an American without a well-stocked armory.
To fuel gun sales, the industry aggressively markets military-style weapons to consumers that evoke patriotic themes or stoke fears of violent crime, economic collapse and civil unrest. Nancy Lanza fell into that trap, and her son’s access to her guns justified the public’s fear of violent crime from not a criminal, but a law abiding citizen. One of the challenges of the gun industry is to saturate their typical customer with sufficient fear that they can sell the typical NRA member their third, fourth, fifth, sixth or even seventh gun, and when fear of criminal assailants fails to do the trick, there is always fear of the government and their imagined war on gun ownership.
In fact, in 1995 NRA leader Wayne La Pierre viciously attacked gun control legislation as granting “jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us.” In more recent mailings, La Pierre claimed the NRA is “fighting a multi-front battle with anti-gun radicals in the Obama administration” willing to use “ANY means necessary to DESTROY our freedoms.” It, like invoking more god, is a typical response to mass shootings and within a day of the deadly shooting spree, there were, and still are, calls for more guns in the hands of teachers and school personnel.
Most decent Americans understand that Adam Lanza killed his mother, 20 first graders, and their teachers because he had easy access to multiple weapons. Adam Lanza was disturbed, but if his mother had not stockpiled guns in anticipation of an economic collapse, and trained her son to use her collection of weapons, he would have not had a readily available arsenal. Gun rights activists are quick to point out that the guns were not the problem, but if Adam Lanza did not have access to guns, the majority of Americans would still be ignorant of Newtown Connecticut or Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The proper response to the horrific carnage in Connecticut is asking why there are no regulations on the number or types of firearms Nancy Lanza kept in her home, and one of the reasons is the NRA and its co-opting by Republicans dating back to the Reagan era. In 1983, Reagan praised the NRA for defeating California’s Proposition 15, which would have required handgun registration, limited the number of guns registered by each individual, and restricted mail-order and out-of-state purchases. Reagan said, “You shocked California last November when you mobilized to send help and to down Proposition 15 and defeat it. It’s a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun-control laws.” Nancy Lanza had no intention of seeking to do harm, and her guns were legal, but if there was a limit on the number and type of guns she stashed, her mentally disturbed son, 20 first graders, and 6 of their teachers would be alive and well today.
Perhaps this latest mass shooting will produce different results than the past six or seven, but it seems highly unlikely based on the oh-so typical responses from Americans on both sides of the issue. Gun control advocates are calling for a ban on assault-type weapons, evangelicals are blaming the government for transforming parochial schools to dens of inequity, gun rights activists call for more armed Americans, and the NRA finally released a statement that the “National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters—and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again,” but based on Wayne La Pierre’s typical rhetoric after mass shootings, there will be calls for calm and common-sense solutions involving more guns.
There is talk of introducing a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the Senate, but after Christmas and New Year celebrations, and either falling or avoiding the dreaded fiscal cliff, America will revert to the status quo. Republicans in the House will embark on a new war on women, social safety nets, and all manner of job creation obstruction, and evangelicals will remain vigilant to impose the bible and god on innocent school children. All the while, the NRA will fall back to fear mongering about the Obama Administration’s plot to delete the 2nd Amendment from the Constitution and seize all firearms from freedom loving Americans. This country suffers mass shootings at a rate of about one every other month, and after all the hand-wringing, god appealing, and fear mongering, things will return to normal while we await the next news bulletin that another mentally disturbed American with access to a small arsenal shoots up a school, church, shopping mall, or movie theatre, and the cycle will repeat itself ad nauseum, and although there is plenty of outrage and raw emotion on all sides of the equation this week, America will do what it does best when it comes to the question of too many guns; nothing.