There is a hard truth we, as a nation, must learn from the massacre in Las Vegas — and from so many others before it:
If a person wants to kill, he or she will find a way.
But then we must summon the courage to carry on and do what we can — what we must —to make our communities safer by changing gun laws.
We must be brave enough to withstand the excuses from the gun lobby and supporters in Congress and beyond that “now isn’t the time” to talk about gun reform.
Or “Don’t make this political.” Or the facile argument that because this particular massacre might not have been stopped by universal background checks, for example, that we should refuse to take any action to curtail gun violence.
We must also push back against the trope that guns play no part in lethal shootings.
A person pulls the trigger, yes, but the lethal means cannot be separated from the motive.
A gunman’s decision to kill on a massive scale was made possible by civilian access to weapons designed not to hunt, not to protect an individual or a family or a home, but to shoot as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
When President Trump spoke Monday about the massacre in Las Vegas in which a man shot and killed at least 59 people and injured more than 500 others at an outdoor concert, he said Americans “are joined together today in sadness, shock, and grief.”
Sadness and grief? Yes.
But shock? No. Mass shootings have become numbingly normalized in America.
If now, after the murder of more than 59 people at a country music festival, isn’t the right time to talk about gun violence and gun culture, then when is the right time?
After the Pulse nightclub in Florida, when 49 people were fatally shot and dozens wounded, some hiding in the bathroom?
After Sandy Hook Elementary School when small children were slaughtered in their classrooms?
After Aurora, Colorado, when movie-goers were murdered in their seats?
After a teenager killed two librarians and shot four other people in a public library in Clovis, New Mexico?
After a member of Congress was shot while practicing for a baseball game?
Or, closer to home, after six people were murdered and 13 injured by a young man who walked up to a crowd gathered to talk with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and opened fire in front of a Safeway in Tucson?
If not then — if not now — when?
For some, the answer is “never.”
That’s not good enough. We, our country, must do better.
To get anywhere, two things must happen:
1) Gun rights supporters have to understand, even if they don’t accept, the point of view that many see the easy access to lethal weapons as a threat to their personal and public safety.
Universal background checks and limits on accessories that silence or increase a weapon’s capacity make sense. They won’t prevent all gun deaths, but this isn’t an all-or-nothing question. Government has a role in protecting public safety. In this view, guns without background checks equal danger.
2) Gun reform supporters have to understand, even if they don’t accept, the point of view that, for some, firearms are integral to their personal identity and sense of safety.
Universal background checks and limits on accessories that silence or increase a weapon’s capacity are a government overreach and interfere with an individual’s right to bear arms. From this point of view, guns equal freedom.
This chasm is our challenge as a nation.
We must be brave enough to recognize that we, as a country and a culture, have a deadly problem with gun violence.
If we could be brave enough to work together on guns and public safety —that would be truly shocking, but vitally necessary.