Terry H. Schwadron
Needless to say, everyone in the Washington political circles could talk about the horror of the shooting targeting Republican congressmen and staff on a baseball field, but skip over the obvious — the need for some kind of controls over guns.
Even as witnesses recounted the nonstop fire of an automated rifle on unarmed Republicans on an open, public sports field, the praise was for the fact that two armed Capitol Police guards provided by taxpayers for the wounded Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La) returned fire, hitting the shooter and keeping casualties from being much, much worse.
Actually, it wasn’t everyone. The National Rifle Association was out with statements early demeaning the shooter as a political “liberal” aiming for supportive Republicans rather than a demented individual. And the NRA jumped on anyone, especially Democratic, who dared note that we have a problem in this country with guns.
As things stand, there are more guns in circulation than we have people. By far.
Watching the news unfold, it took no time at all to recognize that weaponry was a problem on that baseball field. Yes, there were early questions about the intentions of the shooter, and the background and his motivations. But no questions about the brutality of the assailant to cower in the third-base side dugout and pick off people on the field.
That the victims here were members of Congress or staff members or the two Capitol Police officers only made things worse. It is another sign that the temperature of political discord in this country is rising too high. When that heat is combined with the availability of weapons, we have a real and measureable public issues.
So, we have two problems: We have politics that treasure “raw meat for the base,” and slogans and chants to “lock her up,” we have rallies in which physical assaults are hailed and applauded rather than decried, we have pent-up, strong opinions that are amplified by social media and televised repetition that aim to undercut opponents as personal enemies. Rather than recognizing the issue and tempering our politics, we, as a general public insist on wanting to boil opponents in oil or insist on demeaning those with whom we are in disagreement.
In other words, it is solvable, but we don’t want to do what is needed. Indeed, the argument now among Democrats, for example, seems to be between those who want no compromise on anything ever with Republicans, and those who somehow are seen as less than “democrat-true” if they accept smaller governmental policy goals. Among Republicans, there is almost no debate that they should simple act on their own without ever even talking to enemy Democrats. There are third ways out there, as we all know, but you may have to do some work to pursue those goals.
There were calls for lowered heat yesterday, and that is great. But you can’t talk about being in the same “family,” as the term was being tossed about yesterday, when you find yourself to be grouped in with opponents derided in the rawest terms or left out of the discussion altogether.
The second problem results as an issue of the first, of course. It is the insistence that we cannot look at gun ownership with anything regarding common sense.
There is no excuse for this shooter today taking aim with an automated weapon on unarmed people, even if he regarded them as political foes. Whatever turns out to be his complete background — it is vaguely amusing that the same FBI that the President could speak of in such unceremonious ways now is entrusted to get to the bottom of this shooting — the law needs to be adjusted so that people who tend toward angry public behavior should not have access to automated weapons and unlimited ammunition.
I’ll agree that two “good guys with guns” helped in this instance. But my family doesn’t have guards, to say nothing of taxpayer-provided security, and neither does yours. What we do know is that with guns in such unregulated hands, we too will be having to worry about hitting the ground sooner or later, to escape gunfire that seems yet more inevitable by the year. It is even more noteworthy, then, to hear that the official terrorists are using knives and trucks rather than guns.
These public shooting incidents have their familiar trajectories. Once again, it will be a neighborhood where “this never happens,” with a shooter that no one knew was this angry. Unfortunately, the most familiar part of this story will be the weapon being fully available to someone whose mental stability may well have been at risk.
What if we don’t live in such nicely suburban and generally protected neighborhood as in Alexandria, Va.? What if we live with more frequent gunfire? What if we aren’t Congress members with security forces? Is the answer everyone carrying a concealed weapon? Would you be carrying it at 7 a.m. in the local park? In fact, there was another shooting yesterday, in a San Francisco UPS facility in which four were dead, including the shooter.
Pushing away the question as a matter of ideology won’t make the problem disappear any more than the political hotness question.
It is all a matter only of what we have the public will to do.