[This was my first post after being graciously invited to blog at IIRTZ, originally posted April 17, 2007 as a reaction to the reaction to the shootings at Virginia Tech. I chose it because it's off the cuff and short compared to other of my posts, but is still representative.]
Right after something goes wrong -- even horribly wrong -- is not the time to talk about how it happened and what to do about it.
That was a paraphrase; what you'll actually hear is something like this:
Today, in the white hot moment of grief and anger, is probably not the best time to have the debate over gun control.And from the NRA:
The National Rifle Association joins the entire country in expressing our deepest condolences to the families of Virginia Tech University and everyone else affected by this horrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families. We will not have further comment until all the facts are known.How convenient for the gun nuts! Is that so after a few days we might forget there was even a gun involved and move on to something else?
At least one fact is already in: Somebody murdered 33 people on Monday. With a gun. If you need to know anything else (was it an assault rifle or a handgun? Did he have a criminal record? Did he own the gun legally? Was it a "good" gun, or a "bad" gun? Was it a pretty gun, or an ugly gun? What color was the gun?), then you're on your way down that road to good ol' American-style hair-splitting equivocation.
The survivors won't have the luxury of grieving differently based on the answers to those questions -- their loss is absolute and irrevocable. They are the ones who pay the cost of somebody else's so-called "freedom".
What's the cost to me personally? Two family members. So far.
Quite a few years ago now, somebody walked up to my cousin Charlie while he was making a call in a Florida phone booth, and blew him away with a "Saturday-night special". We still don't know who it was. That's not the case with another cousin's daughter; she was stalked by an ex-boyfriend with no criminal record and murdered on her front steps with a legally-registered gun.
It's bad enough that we are reactive rather than proactive as a nation. But we go beyond that to being a crippled, broken society if we can't address 30,242 preventable deaths a year. By my calculations, that's 169,355 since 9/11/2001, when 2,973 died in the World Trade Center attack. Tomorrow, it will have been 169,438. That's 5,700% of the terrorism death rate over that time.
If we reclassify gun crimes as terrorism, could we then have the appropriately hysterical response? Since 9/11, I have to be strip-searched if an airline ticket agent doesn't like the way I look. Yet, among all the measures taken in the 9/11 aftermath, there was never a mention of tightening security around weapons.
On the other hand, to fly a light airplane (2,400 pounds, fully loaded), I had to get a background check, be fingerprinted, and provide all sorts of documentation just to get a badge to allow me onto the ramp at the airport where I fly; all presumably so that something that might blow away in a stiff wind won't be used as a terrorist weapon. Last week, Massport threatened to send the State Police to my house to confiscate my badge until I provided the same documentation, because the inept TSA had somehow destroyed the records. I don't have a high-powered NRA-style lobby bullying legislators (unless the AOPA counts), so I have to suck it up if I want to keep doing what I do.
It would be pretty difficult to do the kind of damage that was done on Monday at Virginia Tech with a single-engine Cessna. That's even if I filled the tanks and flew it into a building -- say, the one where 60,000 NRA members are gathering in St. Louis for their annual meetings.
Don't tempt me.