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Thursday, May 26, 2022

OPINION CHARLES M. BLOW The American Killing Fields

The American Killing Fields

Kaylee Greenlee for The New York Times

The Republican Party has turned America into a killing field.

Republicans have allowed guns to proliferate while weakening barriers to ownership, lowering the age at which one can purchase a weapon and eliminating laws governing how, when and where guns can be carried.

They have done this in part with help from conservatives on the Supreme Court who have upheld a corrupt and bastardized interpretation of the Second Amendment.

But Republicans have also done so by promoting fear and paranoia. They tell people that criminals are coming to menace you, immigrants are coming to menace you, a race war (or racial replacement) is coming to menace you and the government itself may one day come to menace you.

The only defense you have against the menace is to be armed.

If you buy into this line of thinking, owning a gun is not only logical but prudent. It’s like living in a flood plain and buying flood insurance. Of course you should do it.

The propaganda has been incredibly, insidiously persuasive. As Vox pointed outlast year, “Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms,” according to 2018 data.

But once you accept the dogma that a personal arsenal is your last line of defense against an advancing threat, no amount of tragedy can persuade you to relinquish that idea, not even the slaughter of children and their teachers in their classrooms.

Even if you think that shootings like the one in Texas are horrendous, you see yourself and your interests as detached from them. You didn’t do the killing. Your guns are kept safe and secure, possibly even under lock and key. You are a responsible gun owner. The person who did the killing is a lunatic.

Republicans carry this logic in Congress. They offer thoughts and prayers but resist reforms. They offer the same asinine advice: To counter bad guys with guns, we need more good guys with guns. They seem to envision an old-school western in which gunmen square off and the ranger always kills the desperado.

They want to arm teachers, even though most don’t want to be armed. Personally, I can’t imagine any of my elementary-school teachers with a gun in the classroom trying to fend off a gunman. That’s not what they signed up for.

And so Republicans keep the country trapped in a state of intransigence, ricocheting from one tragedy to another. This is not normal, nor is it necessary and inevitable.

No other country has the level of American carnage, but no other country has American Republicans.

The mass shootings are only the tip of the iceberg.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 45,000 people died from gun-related episodes in 2020, the most recorded in this country and a 15 percent increase from the year before. Slightly more than half, 54 percent, were the result of suicide, and 43 percent were the result of homicide.

And still, we do nothing to restrict gun access, or more precisely, Republicans agree to no new restrictions. This is not a both-sides-equally issue. The lion’s share of the resistance to passing federal gun safety laws falls squarely on Republican shoulders. We have to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough.

Beginning to pass gun safety wouldn’t immediately end all gun violence in this country, but it could begin to lower the body count, to lessen the amount of blood flowing in the streets.

Republicans have no intention of helping in that regard. Too often, they seem to see the carnage as collateral — as if they could use the constancy and repetition of these killings to scuttle efforts to stop future killings. Some Republicans may even count on Americans getting used to inaction, getting inured to the killing of children, getting numb to the relentless taking of life and no taking of action.

So we go through the cycle yet again — the wailing of loved ones, the sadness of a country. We call the victims’ names and learn a little about their lives before they were cut down. Maybe this one liked ice cream or that one liked to dress up like a princess. We ask: If not now, when? If not for this, then for what? We listen to Democrats condemn and Republicans deflect.

And before we can fully mourn one massacre, another one happens. It was just over a week ago that a white supremacist terrorist gunned down 13 people in a Buffalo grocery store. In fact, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 611 mass shootings in the United States in 2020. That’s not only more than one a day; it’s approaching two a day. (The archive defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people were shot or killed, not including the shooter.)

There is no great mystery about why we are where we are in this country when it comes to gun violence. We shouldn’t — and must not — pretend that this issue is complicated. It’s not.

We are not addressing our insane gun culture and the havoc it is wreaking because the Republican Party refuses to cooperate. There is death all around us, but for too many Republicans, it is a sad inconvenience rather than impetus for action.“

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