In the wake of the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas this week, one might hope the country would begin to reconsider its fatal affair with firearms. Instead, we are forced to endure a ritualized theater of grief—thoughts and prayers, coupled with hollow calls for unity beyond politics. As Charles Blow writes in his Thursday column, until we examine our "blood pact" with the National Rifle Association, it will never be the "right time" to discuss gun control.
"Anytime an American uses a gun to kill another American, that is precisely the right time to talk about how to prevent that from happening again," he writes. "In the 477 days from June 1, 2016, to Oct. 1, 2017, there were 521 mass shootings. Finding a long enough lull to discuss this issue is almost impossible. There will always soon be another shooting."
The mass shootings in Newtown, Charleston, and Orlando all offered opportunities to address this crisis. Instead they've helped normalize the country's epidemic of gun violence, effectively killing all debate on the issue. Blow continues:
"[The debate] died a little bit when much of America simply accepted that we have at least as many guns as people. It died a little when Americans accepted that over 30,000 people a year die of gun injuries in this country. It died a little bit when every American didn’t see as an untenable perversion the fact that in the wake of mass shootings, gun sales and gun stocks rise instead of fall. It died a little when Americans began to accept as normal something that is absolutely not normal."
Blow attributes this state of affairs to the NRA and the all-powerful gun lobby. So strong is the NRA's hold on America that Bill O'Reilly can, with a straight face, write of the Las Vegas shootings, “This is the price of freedom. Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are. The Second Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection. Even the loons.”
"The people with the power to do something about this have made the decision to do nothing," Blow argues. "They have calculated that the blood running through our streets is an acceptable level of collateral damage to secure and maintain an increasingly unfettered right to bear arms."
The NRA—and its pet politicians—plays on Americans' latent racism, convincing them that crime is up everywhere, despite all evidence to the contrary, and that the only way to prevent it is unlimited access to automatic weapons. Blow argues that we need a new conversation about gun control altogether, that we "have to develop language for having a conversation that centers on the deconstruction of fear and the elevation of public health and safety, rather than solely on the right to purchase and possess particular kinds of weapons."
It's going to be the definition of an uphill battle. After all, "Republicans made a blood pact with the NRA, and that has prevented us from making any progress. Individual Americans are going to have to awaken to the reality that our gun hoarding has become a hysteria and we are actually safer as a country with fewer weapons, rather than with more of them."
Let's hope hundreds more don't have to die before we finally do.