Imagine yourself one of the small number of Americans who have political power – real power. Say you wanted to browbeat Americans into accepting some truly awful aspect of their lives without complaint. It would be in your interest to have this awful thing happen so regularly that people would become resigned to it, aided by saturation news coverage emphasizing that it is inevitable and nothing can be done about it. After a sufficient amount of time you would most likely achieve your goal; people will just shrug their shoulders, accept it as part of life, and go about their miserable days.
With our latest public spree killing at the Navy Yards in Washington, the NRA appears to have accomplished its goal at long last. They have achieved their dream of an America in which an armed gunman can murder 12 people in public and no one will give it a second thought. It isn't shocking, it isn't a cause for outrage. It's just a thing that is going to happen a couple of times per year indefinitely because really, what can be done about it? Lacking an especially gruesome angle – in Newtown, for instance, the victims were all tiny children – we hardly even pay attention.
It feels as if no one has the energy to go through the motions, to take to their soapboxes and yell that America has either too many guns or too few. After Newtown, Americans have finally gotten the message: the gun industry owns the NRA, the NRA owns Congress, and Congress owns nothing but the votes it sells to the highest bidder. Nothing is going to change, ever, unless it involves arming more people in more places. So really, what is the point? Why bother? Why try to make changes that will never happen? People may not be smart but they are rational; most of us recognize a lost cause when we see it. We're left with no option beyond retreating into the fantasy that we can somehow protect ourselves with more guns and bigger locks on the doors.
Getting policies enacted is not a rare accomplishment for an interest group. Getting the public to accept their position as the status quo is harder but not unheard of. The NRA alone, it seems, has succeeded in reducing its opposition to total resignation. They are going to win every time. The only solution is more guns and the occasional killing spree is just a fact of American life now. Despite the saturation media coverage of these once-shocking events, they're treated essentially like the weather: it's just a thing that happens that nobody can control or predict, and it sure is sad when some people end up dead.
Lyndon Johnson once said that real power is getting someone to kiss your ass in a Macy's window and then announce that it tasted great. He wasn't wrong, but today real power is getting an entire nation to react to something that should be jarring with, "Just twelve? Regular adults? Oh how terrible. What's for dinner?"