Asking the Right Questions

“…All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run, better run, out run my gun! All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run, better run, faster than my bullet” -”Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People

According to Mark Foster, the writer of ‘Pumped Up Kicks, the song is “about a kid that basically is losing his mind and plotting revenge. He’s an outcast. I feel like the youth in our culture are becoming more and more isolated. It’s kind of an epidemic.”  He wrote it hoping to “bring awareness to the issue of gun violence among youth” which he feels has reached epidemic proportions, caused in part by “lack of family, lack of love and (feelings of) isolation.”

It wasn’t long ago that Pearl Jam wrote a similarly haunting song, “Jeremy“. It was based on the true story of a young boy who committed suicide in front of his classmates. That was over 20 years ago. In the time span between the two songs, it’s hard to remember all of the many tragic mass shootings that have occurred. They certainly garner more attention than suicides or homicides with 1 or 2 victims, but if we add them all up  in just 20 years there would be too many to name. Yet with all the recent suicides related to bullying, we don’t seem to be getting a handle on how to reach our ”alienated youth”. Instead, it seems in many ways we are making it worse, allowing social media to consume them instead of finding new, creative ways to engage them.  Reaching out to young people who feel isolated, alone, rejected may not prevent all future mass shootings, but it’s definitely a part of the solution. What’s clear is this: We have to do something, any and everything we can to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening over and over again.

It’s sad to note that most people seem to doubt this latest incident will make a difference in bringing about any meaningful reform of gun control laws.  The NRA and its mad band of lobbyists are counting on apathy and a short attention span in the general public and complicity of lawmakers too afraid of the sway the NRA has over their constituents. Regardless of party affiliation, folks in Washington seem to fear the NRA more than the loss of votes from anyone who advocates gun control. It’s sad to say, not even the shooting of one of their own, former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, was enough to get them to get off their asses and, at the very least, limit the access to high-capacity magazines.

Not that there hasn’t been any effort. According to CNN:

After the 1999 Columbine shooting, Democratic Vice President Al Gore played a central role in trying to pass ill-fated gun control legislation. On the campaign trail during his 2000 presidential run, he argued for “common-sense gun safety measures”.  Democratic strategists said they believe Gore and other Democrats lost critical votes in rural America by pushing for stricter gun laws.

So, Democratic Party leaders began to recruit candidates who could win those largely red districts and states, candidates who ran on support for gun rights.

Jim Manley worked in the Senate for more than 20 years as a top aide to Democrats Sen. Ted Kennedy and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He witnessed the change up close.

“Democrats finally figured out that this was an issue that they were getting walloped on in many Western, Southern states and many swing states,” Manley said. “So they began a subtle shift to try to coordinate and/or get more pro-gun Democrats to run.”

“For many Democrats, it’s smart politics not to get into the gun control debate,” he said.

It seems with that kind of logic, pardon the horrible pun, the Democrats may have shot themselves in the foot. Perhaps “pro-gun Democrats” in office are why there hasn’t been the kind of forward momentum on progressive issues that many liberal voters had hoped for.  You can’t elect pro-gun Democrats and expect that they won’t espouse other ”conservative values” that may be detrimental to the interests of those of us on the left.

The bill signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 that banned assault weapons expired in 2004 without much of a fight to renew it or, even better, re-enforce it. After the expiration of that bill (at least) 5 more major incidents have occurred, and perhaps scores of others that haven’t received much coverage in national news.

Whenever a tragedy of this magnitude occurs, the unspoken question in everyone’s heart and mind is why?  We may or may not ever learn the true motivation behind this most recent shooting. It wouldn’t even be a question if we as a people began asking the right questions of our lawmakers, then demanded answers and action.

Here are some of the questions we need actionable answers to:

  • Why is it easier for one person to purchase 6,000 rounds of ammunition via the internet, than to walk into the average drugstore and stock up on Sudafed-D?  Due to the ”war on drugs” one must show I.D., and how much and who is purchasing this over the counter medicine is tracked. Yet, apparently, one can buy enough weapons and ammunition, even have it shipped to a place of employment, without it even being registered and tracked by any government agency.
  • Why hasn’t there been comprehensive reform in parents and family rights with regard to mentally ill persons over the age of 21?
  • For that matter, why isn’t there a requirement of some sort of proof of mental competency and/or purpose for purchase of said weapons and ammunition?
  • Why isn’t there a substantial waiting period on ALL guns and ammunition?
  • Why would ANY ordinary citizen need to have an assault weapon? Or riot gear for that matter?

If, after the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999, voters in Colorado a pro-gun western state was able to close the gun show loophole by putting it to a vote by the people, why not find other creative ways to do the same in other states?

Do hunters need multiple rounds of ammunition? If not, then whose rights are being protected by the NRA?

Does the price of so-called “freedom from constriction of our 2nd amendment rights” have to be rampant gun violence?

Sadly, the answer to the last question appears to be a resounding “yes”.

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Click here to see CNN’s timeline of the Worst Mass Shootings in the U.S.