After the Texas school massacre, President Biden asked, “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?”
The answer, which is already unfolding by inaction, is that we are not.
Americans decided a decade ago after the Sandy Hook killings that we value our guns more than we do our children, including very young ones and other people’s, of course. At the moment, we are full of sadness and outrage and demand that our elected leaders “do something.” They won’t.
Poll after poll confirms that Americans support what are billed as “common sense” gun controls, but we, the people, have yet to make that absolutely clear by voting out legislators who think it is OK for 18-year-olds to buy military assault weapons on their birthdays and head for the local elementary school. We are, of course, the only nation on earth that allows this, and we have the statistics to show for it. The New York Times reports that we endured 101 mass shootings between 1998-2019. Our closest competitor is France with eight.
In addition, the majority of gun deaths last year were suicides, not to mention individual murders by gunshot and accidental shootings. Mass shootings garner headlines, but most gun carnage is routine, if not expected.
The white men who wrote the Second Amendment thought muskets were the latest and greatest. They never conceived of death and destruction wrought by military assault weapons.
What is wrong with us?
The massacre in Texas has ignited a debate. It is shocking to acknowledge we are actually having this debate. Since so many Americans react with “ho-hum” to mass shootings at elementary schools, should we show them what it really looks like? Should media use photographs of 6-year-olds who met their maker courtesy of a military-grade assault weapon that left exit wounds the size of oranges in their little bodies?
Yes, you read that correctly.
Talking heads and ordinary Americans alike are wondering whether showing the actual carnage would shock us into dealing with our assault weapons issue, just as Emmett Till’s mother’s 1955 decision to have an open-casket revealing his murdered body spurred on the civil rights movement in our nation.
Meaghan Looram, editor of photography at The New York Times frames the issue this way. “We are always trying to balance the news value of an image and its service to our readers against whether or not the image is dignified for the victims or considerate toward the families or loved ones of those pictured. We don’t want to withhold images that would help people understand what has happened in scenarios like these, but we also don’t publish images sheerly as provocation.”
Think about it.
Donald Trump’s endorsement is certainly not the kiss of death in Republican circles, but it does not seem to be the breath of life either. Trump-endorsed candidates in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Texas did not traipse easily into their party’s nominations for high office, garnering about a third of Republican primary votes — respectable but not close to landslide territory.
Still, there is a hard core of Trump loyalists who will do almost anything for the man, including ink their own bodies. I know this because I was recently standing in a lunch line behind a tall fellow in a sleeveless T-shirt.
His bare flesh boasted enough tattoos to have financed college tuition. As I surveyed the back of his colorful arm, which was at my eye level, I wondered why on earth anyone would tattoo the number “45” on his bicep when it came to me. This man was paying an inky homage to Donald Trump!
Now, that has got to be true love! Or something …