It’s damnable that any reflection on American gun violence is quickly out of date. I was in Texas when the October 1 shooting occurred in Roseburg, Oregon, leaving 10 dead including the gunman. I was revising an article provoked by that shooting when 14 were shot dead December 2 in San Bernardino, California. Now there are two statistics I can’t get out of my mind: first, mass shootings (resulting in four or more deaths) occur at a rate of more than one a day in the United States. Second, more American gun deaths have occurred since 1970 than American war deaths since 1775.
I, like many people of faith, am reeling from Jerry Falwell Jr.’s proclamations to his student body. Falwell encouraged the students of Liberty University (there are more than 100,000 of them) to arm themselves against Muslim terrorists.
His rhetoric reminded me of a bumper sticker I see here in Tennessee: “Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.”
In the wake of the shootings in Las Vegas—in which bystander Joseph Robert Wilcox tried to take a shooter out and instead was himself shot and killed—Adam Weinstein offers a very thoughtful take on the notion of being a "good guy with a gun." A veteran and a gun owner, Weinstein describes himself as "one of those wannabe heroes"—but also details his growing doubts.
Historians have argued for decades that the Second Amendment has nothing to do with the right to own a handgun nor even with the right to use a gun in self-defense. Nevertheless, a counternarrative—bolstered by the National Rifle Association—has triumphed in the popular mind and been codified to some extent in the Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which said that the Second Amendment “protects an individual right to possess a firearm.”
If a lot of African-Americans back in the '60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma? . . . If John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?
Here's some good news: despite our short collective attention span, despite the fiscal-cliff debacle dominating the headlines shortly after the Newtown shooting, the U.S. scourge of gun violence is still part of the national conversation.