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Byrd: No hope for gun reforms

BY MATTHEW BYRD | JANUARY 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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On Jan. 25, in Columbia, Md., a 19-year-old male walked into the Mall of Columbia with a 12-gauge shotgun and killed two people before turning the gun on himself.

A week ago, an engineering student at Purdue University allegedly killed a teaching assistant in a classroom.

In 2014 so far, there has been a school shooting for every other school day of the year, according to a Think Progress report.

It’s not exactly groundbreaking to note that we seem to be in the midst of the nadir of the American mass-shooting phenomenon. What’s more important to note, however, is that there isn’t anything we can really do about it.

No, I’m not saying that gun-control laws are futile and that shootings are unavoidable because the citizens of Great Britain, Australia, France, Japan, Canada and basically any other industrialized society are privileged enough to still be shocked when a bullet extinguishes the lives of one of their citizens.

It has become abundantly clear that America took a good, long look at the prospect of having a society in which mass shootings and gun deaths have the frequency of car crashes and decided they could live with that.

The political elite gave up last year with Congress’s pathetic failure at curtailing gun violence.

Basically no real gun control legislation, like high-capacity magazine or assault weapon bans was seriously considered, and a very, very mild universal background check reform (which 90 percent of the country supported) died because of the Senate’s asinine and undemocratic filibuster rules.

That our lawmakers, even after 26 people, mostly children, were gunned down in cold blood, couldn’t enact even the most milquetoast of gun control just speaks to how badly the NRA and gun-control opponents have beaten gun reformists.

In the wake of the 2000 presidential election, during which Al Gore lost Tennessee and West Virginia in part because of his support of gun control, the Democratic Party essentially gave up on gun control while the rabidly pro-gun Republican Party kept rolling in NRA cash as it tore apart ’90s reforms such as the assault-weapon ban. When Newtown gave gun-control activists momentum, gun advocates had already won the political culture. It was too late.

And the American people too have apparently lost interest in reforming this country’s myopic gun policy with polling showing that Americans have returned to their pre-Newtown skepticism toward harsher gun laws.

Which brings us to today. If gun control failed after Newtown, it’s not going to work after the next Newtown or Columbine or Virginia Tech or Aurora or whatever the next town whose name will become a byword for American gun butchery. It’s going to take a massive sea change in the American public and political culture to change anything, something that’s either going to come from a shooting, or shootings, on a scale and viciousness not seen before (which is terrifying to imagine) or (more likely) from a slow, gradual realization by the American public that sensible gun policy is an essential part of having a developed country. That could take a generation or more.

So, until then, it seems that guns and mass shootings are going to be as much of a part of the American landscape as Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty.

Because it’s going to happen again.


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