The US gun lobby will tolerate infinite slaughter for the right to bear arms. This is democracy in the raw
How many times must a man go beserk/ Before you ban the means of mass death?
The answer, my friends, isn’t the majestically vague one Bob Dylan gave to the questions he posed on the cusp of a more peacenik American age. “Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?” mused Dylan in 1962, sagely concluding that the answer was blowin’ in the wind.
Today, in the context of US gun law reform, that is a non-rhetorical question with a simply literal answer: the number of deaths till the men (and women, but mostly men) of the National Rifle Association know too many have died is infinite.
No amount of body bags, distraught parents, grieving children and unbearably poignant reports from perimeter fencing in front of schools, churches or gay nightclubs has any discernible impact at a legislative level.
Jeremy Joseph, owner of G-A-Y, talks about Orlando mass shooting
What happened at Pulse, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and in so many other buildings and regions across the United States could recur monthly for decades, and it would still it would be sanctioned by a force that no US President – however eloquent, determined and committed to change – can defeat.
That force is democracy. Or, more accurately, the mighty part of democracy that is a lobbying system of sufficient amorality and blithe indifference to suffering to reduce democracy to a filthy little joke.
Just as that maniac did on the weekend, the NRA – surely the most disgusting outfit in western democratic history – long ago took Washington hostage. The death of every innocent killed by a semi-automatic weapon would be on its conscience if it had one.
It doesn’t, of course.
While one might imagine some of those politicians (primarily Republicans, but also some Democrats) who cravenly kiss the gun lobby’s ring being woken at 3.30am, sobbing with guilt over their role as enablers, those who run and support the NRA are sealed within a bubble. Nothing penetrates the cocoon of self-righteousness. No horror pierces the titanium shell of indifference.
Monuments light up for Orlando
The likes of Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s most reliably repellent voice, are smugly impervious to human suffering. The response to each outrage is so predictable, there might as well be a script.
The NRA and its untold millions of fans parrot the ritual gibberish about the right to bear arms as sanctified by the Second Amendment. Why should “responsible gun owners” be penalised, after all, purely because of a few thousand maniacs out there who want to gun down children and gays?
An ashen President Obama addresses the nation, drawing on his capacious stores of self-control to speak with calm reasonableness about the need to solve the problem. While his dignified restraint is heroic, his weary defeatism bespeaks painful experience of the domestic limits on presidential power.
For the next fortnight, America and the world beyond speak in traumatised disbelief of little else. Then it takes its place on the groaning pile of atrocities, and all falls quiet for a few months until the next one begins the cycle again.
The combination of the NRA’s wealth and America’s cultural addiction to guns comfortably trumps (no pun meant; we’ll touch on the narcissists’ narcissist below) all sense, logic and decency.
Obama, Hillary Clinton and others can remind Americans that for 10 years, until 2004, semi-automatics were largely banned – until the relevant legislation vanished by way of “a sunset clause” and was not revived under George W Bush.
They can reiterate that the Second Amendment (as adopted in 1791 a little before the invention of the machine gun) refers to the rights of not private citizens but “a well-regulated militia”. They can gently point out that a citizen’s need for self-protection is adequately met by non-automatic weaponry. You might add that it seems a touch peculiar that someone on the FBI’s radar can stroll into a supermarket and pick up an assault rifle in a two-for-one deal with a cantaloupe melon.
Such compelling points and others, as recited after each Orlando, fall on ears deafened by the thrilling rat-a-tat-tat of semi-automatic gunfire.
One day, God willing, America will join the supposedly civilised world in regarding the easy accessibility of semi-automatics, in a country more laden with sociopaths than most, as an act of collective madness on a par with the enslavement of human beings.
Meanwhile, with that day seemingly as far off as ever, Donald Trump accepts the “congrats” of those praising him for foreseeing the dangers posed by Muslim extremists with typical sensitivity.
Trump, we must remember, was once a champion of gun law reform himself, as a trip to YouTube attests. Just as he was once pro-choice over abortion rights. Privately, he probably still is.
But a RepubIican could no more be elected president were he for banning semi-automatics than if he supported partial birth abortion.
Whoever wins the White House in November, however many massacres follow this one, nothing will change so long as the NRA has the money and power to mow down the careers of Republicans and Democratic members of congress in Republican-leaning states.
This, like Trump’s proximity to the Oval Office (and like the mounting prospect of Brexit here), is democracy in the raw.
Anyone else for benign dictatorship?