Now is not the time to talk about guns in America.
The National Rifle Association flacks and other members of the gun lobby assure us that the moments right after a tragedy, such as the one in Orlando, Florida – where an angry man shot more than 100 people, killing at least 49, at a gay nightclub – aren’t the time to talk about guns. Emotions – grief, anger, etc. – cloud the issue.
Nor are the rare days in which we don’t have a mass shooting in America the right time to discuss guns. Why spoil one of the now relatively isolated periods of peace and quiet with talk of tragedy?
No, really, there is no good time to talk about guns in America.
This is, the gun lobby and its fellow travelers say, the time to talk about other issues, such as whether the shooter in Orlando should be called a radical Islamic fundamentalist or whether other mass shooters should be called people with mental illness.
(The fact that the killer in Orlando seems to be at least as much of a raging homophobe as he was an aspiring terrorist should be downplayed in the NRA script, because many of the people who carry water for the gun lobby like to beat the anti-gay drum themselves.)
And, whatever we do, we should divert attention from the young Indiana man arrested in California with an arsenal in his possession who apparently intended to perform a similar massacre of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Los Angeles.
He wasn’t a Muslim – just another Hoosier from a state where we love to demonize our LGBTQ neighbors, friends and family members for political purposes and where we encourage people to bring guns to school.
There is a circularity to the NRA’s argument about guns that is a thing of tragic, tragic beauty.
Because there are people in the world who wish to do us harm – terrorists, people with mental illness, criminals – and we have made it easy for them to get guns, we have to make it easier for us to get guns to defend ourselves. But that makes it still easier for the bad guys to get guns, so we need to have still more guns to protect ourselves, which means we have to make it even easier to get guns for everyone, good and bad.
The solution, in other words, to every problem is guns.
Still more guns.
It’s the kind of logic only firearms manufacturers and gun dealers could appreciate – and love.
Perhaps that is why, even though the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population, U.S. citizens own more than half of the world’s privately owned guns.
By the NRA’s reasoning, that should make us the safest place on earth.
Instead, American citizens have a 2000 percent greater chance of being killed by a gun than people who live in other parts of the developed world.
That’s right – 2000 percent.
There are war zones that don’t have the casualty rates that American homes, streets and neighborhoods do.
Such disturbing facts don’t seem to cloud the judgment of our elected officials who are oh-so-eager to do the gun lobby’s bidding – perhaps because the NRA and other similar organizations distribute cash in the form of campaign contributions and lobbying largesse like candy canes on a Christmas tree.
Much of that cash comes from gun makers and sellers, who take pains to obscure the full extent of their support for the gun lobby. Those gun merchants make direct contributions, it is true, but they also fund the NRA and other groups by buying memberships for gun purchasers.
The income for the NRA shows up on the books as membership revenue, but the cash comes from companies that profit from gun sales.
Make no mistake about it – this is about commerce, not constitutional principle.
The gun dealers fund the NRA because they want to keep the cash registers ringing, even as the body count climbs.
That’s why, in the gun lobby’s America, there always will be time for grief.
Time for tears.
Time for funerals by the score, by the hundred, by the thousand.
But there never will be a good time to talk about guns in America.