“God isn’t fixing this,” screamed a headline last week in the New York Daily News.
That sentiment echoed similar potshots on social media and in Congress, aimed at those who responded to the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., with “thoughts and prayers.” The message being: Prayers aren’t enough; we need more gun control. The New York Times called for the same in a recent front page editorial.
So God can’t fix this but a new law will? Leave it to newspapers in the nation’s most heavily governed city, where you’re told how big a Coke you can drink, to think our hired public leaders can make all bad things go away through the sweep of a pen in the Oval Office.
It’s the same scenario: Terrorists/nutjobs with an agenda go on a murderous rampage and the cry goes out: “We are doing nothing!” The president shakes his head and asks when we’re going to solve this, as if we just need to bend to his wishes to make it so.
But you can’t fix evil, certainly not with more laws. Which is why many turn to prayer as the lone answer to such horror.
Guns don’t shoot themselves. Blaming weapons as the cause and effect for every violent event is like blaming cars for DUI deaths. It’s not the object; it’s the person driving it and the choices he or she has made. It’s easier to take out frustrations on an inanimate object than the complex, twisted souls who pull the trigger. Because we know, deep down, that truly addressing that problem appears beyond our reach.
Yet we prefer easy answers, and politicians play to that. Build a wall! Deport all “illegals!” Make college free! Break up the banks! Simple solutions to complex problems are designed to pacify voters that “something is being done” — never mind if that “something” is likely to be useless or create different problems.
It’s not as if the government is hands-off over guns. The Second Amendment protects the right to own weapons but is vague enough to allow what most consider a pragmatic approach to ensuring they are sold and used in a legal fashion by law-abiding people. Background checks are required for licensed dealers, and some states take that even further. Such moves are meant to keep guns away from felons and mental health risks, provided someone has already been arrested or diagnosed (not always) and the person doing the checking follows the right procedure (also hit and miss).
We don’t challenge the prudence of keeping such laws in place and expanding them where needed, even if it keeps one weapon out of the hands of one potential shooter. Let’s just not kid ourselves into thinking it’s going to make a very big dent in this very big problem.
It also seems reasonable to monitor sales of so-called “assault” automatic weapons, though the challenge there comes in defining what fits under that label.
That said, many of the “sensible” laws already in place are poorly enforced. The Charleston church shooter should have been denied a weapon based on his background check, but was not. The system can fail. A new law and a new level of bureaucracy will only create a new layer of incompetence and more fingers to point when the next shooter slips through its canyon-sized cracks.
Why? Because government screws up — a lot. Don’t believe it? Drop in at the DMV sometime. Or a veterans hospital. Or try to get a Social Security problem fixed. Remember the launch of the health care website? If better efforts toward background checks are a worthy goal, best make sure they are executed properly.
Even then, deranged, evil people will always get guns. To think otherwise is pure fantasy. That much trust in government is somewhat naive, and more prevalent among urbanites. Perhaps guns are not seen as necessary where the police are a short call away and coyotes aren’t likely to get into your chicken coop.
And remember, laws are designed to punish those who break them, not prevent crimes. Laws against murder, assault, robbery and every other criminal plague known to man haven’t stopped these from occurring. Thus, new gun laws are but a panacea, an attempt to feel we’re “doing something” about solving an unsolvable problem.
Yet gun “control” isn’t enough for some. Gun eradication is more their aim, the dream of melting all firearms into plowshares. While that might sound nice, it’s not a serious solution for those who live in a real world full of violent barbarians.
As with prohibition of alcohol, restrictions on weapons sales would serve to boost business for black-market merchants. Limiting legal access to firearms will only disarm those who obey the law, leaving them unable to defend themselves.
We can’t stop terrorists, foreign or domestic, from arming themselves and taking innocent lives, any more than we can stop lightning from striking. Law enforcement can weed out a few and deal with the consequences harshly afterward. The guns taken from their hands won’t kill any more, and never would have in the hands of another. Those hands, and their trigger fingers, should be our focus, not just the tools they employ.
So maybe in this case, God would rather us fix our own mess. Regardless, when people face problems beyond their scope, they lean on prayer. Faced with an inability to heal poisoned hearts, there is no other place to turn.
To send a letter to the editor, use this form or send to email@example.com. The Times editorial board includes Publisher Charlotte Atkins, General Manager Norman Baggs and Editor Keith Albertson.