This morning, half the voices on television, and the radio and social media will be saying that it’s too soon to talk about doing anything to stop more incidents like this fresh Valentine’s Day massacre. And the other half will already be lowering their heads and shrugging their shoulders in acceptance that nothing will be done. After all, we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen it bigger. We’ve seen it even more horrible. And nothing happened then. Nothing will happen now. Just like last time, and the other time and all the times before.
And half of both sides will be saying that you really shouldn’t politicize tragedy, and drawing themselves up to do nothing with dignity. Hopes. Prayers. Light another candle. Lower that flag. Have a moment of silence. As if silence is not just the only thing we can do, but the right thing to do. As if piously standing aside while clean-up crews scrub the blood of children off the linoleum is actually the best the nation can hope for.
And we will act as if in not acting, we’re upholding some grand principle—and not just admitting that we are a nation of lazy cowards so afraid of confronting a difficult issue that we’d rather send kids back to school past the pockmarked walls and playing fields nourished with fragments of bone. We’d rather risk our children, and ourselves, than do the hard work of coming up with a solution.
It’s not because doing nothing is the right thing, but because it’s the easy thing. It always is. It’s easier to ignore sexual assault. Easier to ignore racial injustice. Easier to turn your back on the national slaughter. Easier to accept that your kids may never come home from school than to offend your uncle or neighbor or friend by trying to make things better. After all, taking a public stand against continuing along this path would be uncomfortable. Someone might say something. So we watch those poor kids scream on the television, and then we do … nothing.
But let’s not. Let’s just not. Let’s stop being the most spineless nation on the face of the Earth and take up the challenge of dealing with a difficult issue like adults.
We’ve tried turning the country into an armed camp, where the guns outnumber the people. That hasn’t worked. And the only response has been—the only laws that have passed—are those that make it easier to have more guns in more places more of the time. And it’s well past time to admit that those very laws are making things worse.
Let’s try something else.
Yes, this is a country where there’s a long history of associating firearms with freedom. Let’s understand that.
Yes, there are already hundreds of millions of guns in the country. Let’s deal with that.
Yes, there are people who genuinely enjoy hunting, or skeet or gun sports. Let’s keep that in mind.
Yes, there are people who feel strongly that owning firearms of all types is an inviolable right. But there are no unbounded rights. Speech isn’t an unlimited right. Religious practice isn’t an unlimited right. Let’s find the reasonable limits of owning and using firearms.
And if that means revoking or modifying the Second Amendment, then let’s do that. After all, it’s an amendment. Its very nature is an acknowledgement that the Constitution isn’t letters carved into stone on a high mountain, but ink scrawled in a grand compromise between highly fallible men. Pretending that the amendments can’t themselves be amended is an insult to those men and the process they created—a process that acknowledged that they could not perfectly anticipate the future needs of the nation.
Doing something rather than nothing … will be uncomfortable. It’s unlikely that anything will happen without a much greater raising of voices, much more public protest, and much more willingness to elect people who believe that something is possible. That discomfort is likely to include facing off with groups brandishing weapons, and withstanding threats.
If you’ve been waiting for a call to do something important—consider yourself summoned.
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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.