Last year I put in a good amount of work on a book project, which I ended up tossing aside after trying in vain to get a literary agent to take me on. Yes, that's how good it was, I guess. A couple responded and told me, with kindness and regret, that books about politics have to come from Somebody, and I am a Nobody. I understand the logic, and it certainly explains why every sixth-tier cable news personality has his or her own terrible book on the shelves.
My goal was to trace out a unified theory of how we got here – a road map of how the United States progressed from a flawed but fairly normal nation to the open-air asylum we live in today. One of the major points was that we – and I use that term pointedly here, as I mean people like myself who are white, educated, and comparatively affluent – have been far too willing to be bought off and throw others under the bus in exchange for tangible economic benefits. We voted repeatedly for people who were and are obviously terrible because, well, just look at this tax cut. Look at that low interest rate. Look at how cheap these electronics are. We as a nation didn't make that choice consciously in most cases, but it was made nonetheless.
We convinced ourselves to ignore all the red flags that we were voting for people with a twisted, militaristic, might-makes-right worldview who, in addition to giving us cheap toys and tax cuts, intended to do some pretty horrible things to the more vulnerable in society. Among the many negative consequences has been the extreme NRA view of the 2nd Amendment codified in American life.
Large majorities of Americans support higher levels of "gun control" than are currently reflected by our laws. Because in exchange for some things we liked, we voted time and again for some people whose views on the 2nd Amendment were extreme at best and insane at worst. The issue just wasn't important. Guns were something "those people" shot each other with in places we no longer needed to go, having abandoned cities for suburbs in the 1970s. Gun violence was the stuff of crime statistics to be flashed on the local News at Nine round-up of how many young black and Hispanic people got gunned down each day.
Now the gun violence has come for the people who voted to let it happen but managed to avoid the consequences, at least for a while. Now the office shootings, random killing sprees, suburban school shoot-ups, and firearm suicide / accident rates have millions of normal, relatively prosperous Minivan Moms and Lawnmower Dads asking, "Gee why is this happening so often?" One of two reactions follows: Either they buy into the fallacy that guns will keep them safe and assemble a private arsenal, or they look at the practically nonexistent restrictions on gun ownership in some areas and struggle to grasp how elected officials could justify it. Can you REALLY get a gun before you're legally allowed to rent a car? Can non-citizens in some states buy a gun on the internet and pick it up 24 hours later, no questions asked?
Yes. They can, because for years the consequences of those policies happened somewhere else. Some cities turned into war zones, but we simply noted where the problems were worst and avoided those areas. Maybe we fell for "Three Strikes" and mandatory minimum sentencing tough-talk from pasty politicians desperate to look "tough on crime." But what we did not do, for the most part, was go about our daily lives wondering if we would get shot. That was a fate many Americans have had to live with for a long time, but it is only recently becoming the reality for the (politically crucial) white, suburban, fairly affluent voting bloc.
Eruptions of gun violence, especially in schools, are now like the backgrounds in old Hanna-Barbera cartoons – and endless loop of the same images that, watched long enough, cease to be noticed. You see them, but nothing registers. We let this happen because we didn't think it was important as long as it only affected others – others who, you know, kinda deserved it anyway because they were lazy and on welfare and on drugs and selling drugs and probably black or foreign or…you get the picture. It was the kind of people we felt safe seeing on the nightly Homicide Round-up. We felt safe because seeing the underclass of disposables gunned down was exactly what we expected to see. It wasn't shocking.
Now it is shocking and the victims are not Reagan's "Strapping Black Bucks" but elementary school kids and co-workers and concert-goers and all the kinds of people we don't expect to see gunned down on the regular. Yet here we are. We do not have to live this way; it is a direct result of choices we made. But the only thing that has changed recently is that now we are all players in a game that many of the neglected and ignored people in our society have been playing for a long time. The fundamental cause is no different now, simply because we get to experience up close what was once safely distant: we elected, and continued to elect, people with insane, willfully inaccurate, and morally bankrupt views on the 2nd Amendment. We are too easily bought off, and so long as we are willing to vote for these people "even though I don't like his position on guns" we will continue to live like this even though we do not have to.